Groundhog Day

Yesterday, February 2nd, was Groundhog Day.  On this day, according to  quaint custom, we watch to see if  the groundhog sees its shadow or doesn’t. The shadow or lack of,  forecasts an early spring or a much longer winter.

I celebrate this mid winter day by watching the movie of the same name. For years friends organized a party just to do that–I continue the tradition. The movie made in 1993 stars Bill Murray playing the “jerk”   Phil Connors. Wikipedia describes him as “an arrogant and egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism and numerous suicide attempts, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.”

The moral reminder being that we can change our habits if we notice them–Phil Connors was forced to from the shear boredom of repeating the exact same day–Groundhog Day– over and over. He finally noticed and the transformation began. He choose to learn to play the piano, help others, and in the process won the girl and made it to February 3rd!

I love this movie.  It reminds me in the bleakness of a New England winter  we can choose what to do with our everyday life that seems set in schedules.  Makes me asks the questions each year as to what I would do differently in my life if I had the time that the film character does.  And, of course, the point is not lost on me that I do have the time and what do I really want to do in my life. How do I choose to live it.

Photo above: Infamous groundhog doing its thing in spring.

The title  and the day make me think of a choice gardeners have–whether to wage war on the animals.  Groundhogs or hedgehogs, rabbits, deer, voles, turkeys, and more don’t realize that they invade “our gardens”. They seem to think they have the right to trespass and eat whatever they want.  So their lack of understanding usually means a death warrant because we don’t see our gardens as part of the animals’ homes, indeed as part of the earth web of life we all are a part of.

I’m lucky in that with fencing the deer don’t stop by for breakfast. The groundhogs used to devour all my asters and pansies in the back garden.  Rather than engaging in war with them I simply stopped planting anything they like to eat.  I plant those in the front gardens that the groundhog doesn’t get to til August and then I might spray the asters with nasty tasting stuff to discourage them. I’ve stopped filling my bird feeders regularly so thwart the raccoons who can empty them in a flash–much too expensive to feed the raccoon and her family.

But I’m sympathetic with people who have huge problems with foraging animals and still want gardens.  It’s really hard to tell someone as a designer what they really can’t have–though usually I can solve the design issue using a variety of  beautiful plantings –just often not the homeowners  wish list of  English Garden Borders. Although I’ve had some success with deer fencing.It’s the life choice of  choosing not to hate the animals who are just trying survive in areas that we have built our homes in. It’s a choice not to step into that loop.

Or the loop of finding each winter day looking the same–dull green. I find that by February I have to work to look for the changes in the landscape. Snow –dirty or fresh–is obvious.  And so is the way the light changes as the sun rises higher on our horizon each day. Really beautiful when I make myself pause to enjoy it.  But still, the cold makes all the conifers and broadleaf evergreens a really dull green.  That’s why I retreat to my created indoor green oasis (s).  That’s why cut flowers are so important to me.  I started doing that because of something wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil stressed as an important health habit. In the summer, a vase fills with something(s) from my garden. But winter the supermarket florists lure me in with bright colors and scents when I’m on my way to buy milk.

Photo: Maria von Brincken copyright 2013

Amazing what a movie named for a quaint  local animal tradition can provoke so many avenues of thought. By the way, this year’s forecast is for an early spring!


About the author:

Maria creates beautiful designs that transform your home landscape and adds to your life. You will enjoy it every day all the while the improvements increases the value of your home. Maria von Brincken APLD, an award winning and certified designer, offers complete landscape services: master plans, distinctive and original garden designs, consultation and construction. She creates beautiful spaces that include hard surface landscaping solutions such as walkways, driveways, walls, and color waves of great planting combinations, lighting, and more. Please call or email for an appointment to start the design process.  978 443 4540 or

Leave a Reply