Like most gardeners, I'm an optimistic, forward-looking type, who's already (almost) forgotten the horrible summer we had this year.  Remember the record number of brutally hot days?  Yeah, I'm trying to repress them, too.

So with the summer being long gone and Thanksgiving day tomorrow, it's a good time to compile the Maryland Gardener's Gratitude List - at least THIS Maryland gardener's list.  Suggestions for  more items are welcome!

What Maryland Gardeners Can Be Thankful For

• Four seasons.!  I love the changes our gardens go through in even a single year.  Gardeners in balmy climates really miss out.  There's nothing like those first crocuses emerging in February to get us temperate zone gardeners excited.

• Though we have freezing temperatures,  our winters are pretty mild (except for last winter).   Almost every winter we're able to do all sorts of gardening in December, January and February -  raking, of course, but also digging, installing terraces and other hardscape, even moving plants.   And it's the perfect time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs.

•  The University of Maryland Extension Service - one of the nation's best!   Their experts answer our questions - in person or in print - and their Home and Garden Information Center is  awesome.   Grow It Eat It is, too - it's "Maryland's Food Gardening Network".

• Thanks to the Maryland Extension and county coordinators across the state, Maryland has some of the best Master Gardener programs in the U.S.   Per their mission statement, they really do "educate residents about safe, effective and sustainable horticultural practices that build healthy gardens, landscapes, and communities."

• Public gardens, like these favorites of mine:  Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County, Ladew just north of Baltimore and the Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore.  But this list I just found tells me there's lots more I need to check out.

• Same goes for state parks, of which there are dozens more than I imagined - check 'em out.  They're not gardens per se but seeing plants in their natural settings is a great source of inspiration, especially for the growing numbers of native-plant gardeners.

• And hello!  We're within day-trip distance of the Mecca of Public Gardens - Delaware's Brandywine Valley with its Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, and more.   Plus nearby Chanticleer.  And headed south, we can take fabulous day trips to Monticello or the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond.  The Mid-Atlantic is garden-packed!

And No Matter Where I Gardened I'd Be Thankful for These:

• Generous gardeners who share their knowledge and extra plants with me.

• Friends and neighbors whose compliments bring on little burst of pride and pleasure.  Not that they're needed, but they're sure nice.

• Great garden writing, in print and online.  And speaking of online, I keep discovering smart new garden blogs, like this Scientist Gardener who gardens in the D.C. area.

• Lastly, independent garden centers, who've taught me so much of what I know and supplied almost 100 percent of the plants I grow.  I'm a sucker for local businesses with knowledgeable staff.

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