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Winterburn is not a castle in Game of Thrones or a fantastic land in Lord of the Rings. It’s not the surname of a sexy Shakespearean scholar or the nickname of your best friend’s pit bull, although it should be (both). It’s a lovely word and a horrible thing. It’s what happens in your garden when the winter is TOO EFFING COLD.

That’s right, I just went ALL CAPS ON YO ASS.

Winterburn is the devastating loss of moisture from evergreen leaves that kills healthy tissue in broadleaf or piney evergreen shrubs. Helpfully, expert gardeners say you can prevent it by wrapping your evergreens in burlap. I’d like to insert an interminably long sarcastic pause here…why, why, why I ask you, would I plant evergreens if I wanted to look at burlap sack cloth all season? If I’m skilled in fabric arts, maybe I could just weave myself a big old burlap tree. Why, maybe my grandma could knit me some foliage like an afghan. Who needs these ridiculous plants anyway?


You may notice, astute reader, sarcastic pauses have replaced photographs in this particular blog entry. That’s because it’s TOO EFFING COLD to go outside and take pictures.

If I wanted to prove my manhood by scoffing at frostbite, I might click some photos of my darling cedar tree crumbling into a brown pathetic charliebrownchristmastree stick. I might share images of dead cherry tree branches and juniper limbs. I might exhibit the skeletons of rhododendron shrubs, curled leaves browning and dropping with each freeze and thaw, flower buds tainted and dead. Thank you, climate change.

I could rant all day about the challenges of my own garden, but the real horror story is the damage to vast colonies of insects and native plants losing habitat as our climate zones become wildly erratic. Twenty degrees in Florida will wreak havoc on the oranges and the pollinator population. Snow in the Deep South isn’t just a driving hazard, it’s death to the tropical plants and micro-fauna that enliven the spring. You might not care much about bugs (although I hope you do), but I’d be willing to bet you want your morning orange juice to be fresh and cheap at the market and your flowers to bloom when May comes. I suspect you’d miss your Brugmansia, your Rose and your Morning Glory.

Winterburn is a term I’d like to co-opt right now. I’d like to use it to describe the rage and righteous indignation I feel while I helplessly watch the climate implode. Hundreds of gardeners feel it. You’re not a gardener if you’re not an idealist and a bit of a rebel. Raise your trowel. Wave your shovel. Burn like Dylan Thomas said: Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Or at least, if you are gentle, quietly resolve to do no harm. Make your own small difference. Tiny moments matter. Your smallest honesty sends ripples through eternity.

Castle Winterburn flies its sigil. A void filled with tenderness: a branch barely leafed out, on a sea of blue. In the center – well, you fill in the center. You are the light. You stand in your own light: make it shine. Burn against the dying light.