As winter wraps cold arms around my part of the world, my thoughts and daydreams turn to the seed catalogs that have begun to appear like long-lost friends in my mailbox. My herb garden rests safely beneath a blanket of snow, and all I can do now is be patient…and dream about the day when I will again be able to feel the soft earth in my hands. With the arrival of winter comes a particular sadness; a longing for the sun’s warmth and the simple pleasure of tending my plants. And while my usually impatient nature wants to hurry through winter to enjoy the pleasures of spring, I’ve grown to accept the value of embracing each season. Gardening offers the opportunity to experiment, and winter is the perfect time to pore through seed catalogs and design new gardens in preparation for spring. Winter also offers us gardeners the chance to sit back and evaluate the previous season’s efforts. What worked? What didn’t? Do I really want irises in the front flower beds, or would they look more at home clustered around the pond? Do I really need four different varieties of tomatoes in the kitchen garden? Is there room for butternut squash and eggplant? And so the planning process begins. The seed catalogs are colorful temptation, and I quickly fall in love with everything on their pages. My children roll their eyes at my enthusiasm and my fiance reminds me that we’re on a budget. Fortunately, the stillness of winter encourages quiet contemplation rather than impulsive action. And so I think about the plants and flowers I truly love – the ones who are dear friends and close to my heart. I study the lines of my house and the slope of the yard. I mark the pages of my seed catalogs…and I dream. In the slowing-down of winter, it seems okay to be still and open to inspiration. When the air grows warm again and the earth is rich and soft in my hands, I will be ready to turn those garden daydreams into a beautiful sanctuary.