Garden Design
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THE WINTER LANDSCAPE

At the first sign of fall, I feel a sadness and loss. The summer was too short! All the beautiful flowers that have perfumed my days are now nodding their heads and dropping leaves. The trees are turning colors and some are already bare. I know it will soon be time to close the windows and stay inside where it is warm. No longer can I enjoy feeding my fish or pruning the roses. The time for leaf clean-up is here. The ground takes on a brownish color that makes me weary, lonely, and down at heart. For years, living in the same place, I have watched the seasons change and the same thing always happens. I live in New York and I hate the cold weather as much now as I did as a kid.

There are some preparations that can make winter a bit more enjoyable in the colder regions. One thing I always enjoyed in winter was the silhouette of the bare trees against the white snow. Some trees have just the most gorgeous shapes that are hidden in summer, only undressing for us when we have nothing else to see. By pruning or training the young trees I will have something beautiful to see in winters. Also by shopping for trees with special bark, or contorted shapes, you can always enjoy the scenery, with or without leaves. In my yard, I chose the lovely white birch, white pine, evergreen taxis hedge, stately Japanese maple dissecta (with careful February pruning), and other maples. In the front yard I will enjoy the Red Twig Dogwood because I cut back the shoots annually to assure the bright red colors next winter. It is placed next to the deep green of a mugho pine.

Another “winter preparation” trick is to leave some of the flowering seedheads, such as Iris Siberica which has the graceful arching leaves with a straight seed carrying branch and “rattling” head of seeds. It makes a nice dried flower arrangement too. I leave the dried Black-eyed Susans (Rudabeckia) for contrast in places where it looks nice, as a filler.

After all the other deciduous plants have died back, if you have inter-planted low growing evergreens, such as evergreen candytuft, creeping euonymus, small-leaf ilex, and boxwoods, instead of losing the landscape, you will simply enjoy a brand new one! In the spring I look forward to spring housecleaning, taking out the house plants and making more living space for myself. Somehow in fall I feel the same relief in bringing them back in!

The other really important part of my own landscape is fall bulbs, such as colchicum, which are such a herald of good things to come! I have unique stone statuary hidden all summer in the understory which only becomes evident after the garden cleans herself of all the extra trappings. So, in the time between leaf drop and snow fall, I have plenty of which to take pictures! I am getting ready for snow shots of the pond, the fish through the half-covered pond, the bent grasses around the pond, and etcetera. My garden really comes to life in the winter with the only ice-free drinkable water for the wildlife. I get to see birds that most people would never even notice. I leave my filter going all winter to handle the additional activity, as the birds would be there whether I filtered the pond or not. They don’t care how much we spend on fish or how their contributions might affect them.

You’ll have to admit, ponds sure look exquisite in winter! I hope you are enjoying your four-season garden, too!!

 

- Carolyn Weise


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