Pining for a seed catalog

It is a warm, rainy Christmas day. We opened gifts, ate cinnamon rolls, and lounged all morning amidst shiny bows and piles of ripped wrapping paper. The cats are playing in cardboard boxes, our daughter is messaging me from across the room on her new iPod, our son has completed his fifth reading of the Catan instructions so we can figure out how to play, my husband is in the garage building a bed, and I am staring out the window at wet gray branches, listening to the soft patter of rain.

I wish I had a seed catalog.

The weather feels more like spring than winter — we have the sliding glass door open to welcome fresh air — and with an empty, lazy day indoors, I’d love to thumb through a catalog of leaves and flowers, day-dreaming about the garden we will plant in spring.

It has been years since I’ve planned, planted, or tended a real garden. I puttered in Minnesota, but never really dedicated myself. On my recent birthday, when our son gave me a book about butterfly gardening, I spent two days sketching: plotting groupings of host and nectar plants, visualizing colors, planning my kill of large swaths of grass to make room for flower and herb beds.

I may be be overambitious. As far as gardening goes, Virginia soil is foreign to me, as are seasons. In Florida we had a wet season and a dry. There were no freezes; there were no thaws. The main challenges were a scorching sun and the relentless growth: without a winter, there was no break from weeding.

Since I know nothing, it may be wise to start seeds indoors instead of buying hundreds of dollars worth of mature plants. We can buy a packet of seeds — enough for multiple groupings — for a fraction of the cost of a single potted plant.

Now, with Christmas rain coming down and a kitten in my lap, I want to turn the pages of a magazine-paper catalog. I want to circle the herbs and flowers we hope to grow, tabulate costs, and daydream about a garden in the front of our new house, green, and filled with sunshine and butterflies.

If you know of a good free seed catalog, or follow any Virginia gardening blogs that might help a newbie like me, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!