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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Growing Winter Love

This morning when I rode by the Newton Cemetery it was clear that the gardeners had planted purple and yellow pansies and I knew that spring is officially here. The actual date might be a few days from now, but the pansies' smiling faces are proof enough that the grey of winter is departing and the colors of spring approaching.

The growing season is beginning. People are starting to clean the garden beds and plant the seeds which will soon unfold and grace our gardens.

What a perfect day to post Marla's post on spring, summer, fall and even winter gardening.

Marla is passionate about what she does. Whether it is connecting communities far and wide, her passion for social justice or gardening she engages with full positive energy.

I am so privileged to present a little about Marla and gardening today!!!!


Are you one of those people whose actions respond deeply to the calling of each season? Do you find promise and potential as spring emerges, feel fulfilled with beauty and pride in the summer, and need to protect your horticultural treasures in the fall? If yes, you are like me- attuned to the rhythm of nature’s mission of creating beautiful and sustainable surroundings for all of us to enjoy and share.

I owe this innate connection to the land to my father, Sol Field. Sol was born on a farm in 1926, outside of Chicago, and his birth experience was imprinted in his blood. He loved every moment of solitude outside caring for his precious plants and lawn. Once I myself turned 6 or 7 years old he determined that I could join him and take on some tasks around the yard. I did join, sometimes begrudgingly, in our large suburban yard and started the yearly process of helping to weed, plant seedlings and bulbs, pick the strawberries from the patch, tomatoes and other vegetables from the garden, water the flower pots and beds and collect the trimmings. I tried to stay away from the smelly compost and clippings pile way back in the yard, but as my older brother and I got older we helped with that too. My dad taught me little secrets about planting in containers, taking height and flow into consideration, and about balancing perennial and annuals. He also took lots of risks, planting what was thought unusual then, okra and asparagus. My father loved his yard and garden like it was his own castle, and that is one of his strongest legacies that continues in my life.

Come fall or spring, I am in my happy place! You can often find me in positions close to the ground or up on a ladder, taking care of all my perennial and flowering trees’ needs- they are indeed part of my “extended family”. This is a time of visioning, decisions and planning! Trying to balance my desire to engage with my favorite vendors and be surrounded by an array of beautiful colors, unique plant structures and captivating smells, with the need to be patient in my purchases and to reflect deeply if the soil composition, sunlight and plant characteristics will enable each plant to thrive at my home, causes me to invest my whole body and mind in my yard! When my husband sees my car, but can’t find me after calling my name repeatedly, no doubt he understands that I am immersed in our yard. He is very appreciative of the result, though he himself is not wired liked me, and is amazed how much time I devote to our surroundings!

During Covid I have had the opportunity to spend even more time in our yard, or thinking about the projects I want to complete! I became active in local plant loving Facebook groups and have eagerly swapped plants with other Newton residents, I signed up for online classes- I learned how to prune my own trees, how to test my soil and add limestone, nitrogen or potassium when necessary. I learned more about native species and how they really help our environmental systems stay connected to our land. Last year, I planted seeds to grow vegetables, and learned after a long and somewhat disappointing season that I would rather buy seedlings!

While I was in process to close down my yard late this fall, it occurred to me for the first time that I really will miss all my plants that I care for from May- October. I decided that I would experiment with bringing some pots in the house this winter. I vividly remember that my dad would bring in some geraniums into our garage to overwinter. In my house, you can now find transplants in small pots as well whole arrangements from outside containers, peaking out towards the windows…and in my garage there are large containers with 40-50 tulip bulbs, for the purpose of fresh cut flowers! New geranium buds and tulip stems are currently poking through. YES, with lots of love, you can bring the outside to winter in your home!

Marla Olsberg is passionate about Jewish Peoplehood, Projects & Connections. She has spent much of her professional work as a Jewish educator and communal professional. Marla is a committed volunteer working for equity in her extended community, concentrating in areas of fresh food collection and distribution and sustainability initiatives that provide household materials for those who could use more financial support. She also helps organize a bi weekly virtual international cafe between sister-cities, Haifa and Boston. Marla’s husband, Simon, 3 children and their family dog, Alfie, all join her in late summer, in the backyard to pick the gorgeous and sweet raspberries thriving in her yard!

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