Take a minute to think about the plants that sustain you. Everything you eat comes from plants, either directly or indirectly. Your house and furniture may have been built from the bodies of plants. Some of your clothes came from plants. If you’ve delighted in leaves turning colors, fragrances wafting from flowers or leaves, or unexpected bursts of color in nature, give thanks to plants for enriching your experience of the world and lifting your spirits.
As the days grow shorter and frost nips at tender plants, the winter rains bring new growth. The winter solstice, when day and night are equal, signals the gradual return of longer days. To honor the turn of the seasons and turn away from the frenzy of commercialized holidays, try a ritual to get grounded in nature.
Trudi Davidoff, who runs the organization WinterSown Educational, created my favorite winter solstice ritual (tinyurl.com/746u6cv). Though she lives on Long Island, she plants seeds outdoors all winter in plastic clamshells. In midwinter, she can look out at her picnic table and see bits of green starting to show in her snow-dusted mini-greenhouses.
“It is a very wonderful thing to experience,” Davidoff said.
The ritual involves sowing four sets of seeds.
• Davidoff said Seeds of Remembrance “remind us of someone we knew and loved but is now gone from our lives forever.” Did a loved one have a favorite wildflower or native shrub? One of my favorite dogs loved miner’s lettuce, so I picked leaves for her in the garden. I saw the first sprout of miner’s lettuce in my garden in early November. It can grow throughout the cool season in a shady spot until mid-spring. I remember the unusual flowers of a spicebush that grew in front of my grandfather’s house, and in remembrance I can plant seeds of the western spicebush.
• Seeds of Life “make fruit or nectar to invite birds or butterflies to our gardens.” I grow hummingbird fuchsias, as well as clarkias and globe gilias, for the winged ones. Toyon, elderberry, penstemons and goldenrod are also great choices.
• Seeds of Trees “honor Mother Nature.” Trees clean the air, keep soil cool and give us shade. Native oaks are iconic California trees. Smaller trees you can try growing from seed include desert willow, western redbud, California hazel, big berry manzanita, vine maple and mountain mahogany.
• Seeds of Faith are for plants recommended for a warmer climate zone to signify a “leap of faith” and as a reminder that “Mother Nature is capable of miracles.” You can get seeds of native plants you’ve admired in Santa Barbara or San Diego and plant them in a warmer part of your garden.
If you don’t have seeds, attend the Gardening with Natives seed and cutting exchange 7 p.m. Thursday at the Milpitas Library, 160 N. Main St. Even if you don’t have materials to share, there are always plenty to go around.