Spring Is A Hussy

“Spring Is A Hussy”

Or so the gardening dowager speaking to my Garden Club pronounced. She went on to say that anybody can have a beautiful garden in spring.  At first I felt vaguely insulted – sometimes gardeners can be dreadfully opinionated – but there is a morsel of truth to what she had to say. In winter your eye is not distracted by vibrant color and buzzing bees and all the other happy visual diversions of a garden in bloom.  The winter garden is just sort of there, bones exposed, and if it looks good then you can be fairly sure a beautiful garden is evolving. 


Hardscape Perfection!

Nary a bloom in sight yet this garden is spectacularly beautiful. Why? Because the bones are so very, very good. A path and bordering hedges lead  to the stunning arbor covered in vines (wisteria, maybe? climbing roses?) Your eye is drawn toward the arbor and beyond achieving both the sense of arrival and enclosure. Who needs flowers?



Looking toward the side porch from the parterre garden

Is there anything more lovely than the garden at dawn after a gentle snowfall?  Everything is elegantly transformed  – the shapes and forms that were overlooked before are dramatically enhanced by their snow cover. The branches of the contorted redbud tree, Lavender Twist, are now an ephemeral parasol.  This time of year emphasizes the importance of the vertical elements in the garden hardscape.


Contorted Redbud tree and rose tuteur in background lift the eye

And who can resist sturdy Curly, the alpha-sheep of my Concrete Menagerie, all dressed up for winter?


Stoically enduring the cold, Curly watches over all.

Winter is the perfect time to get outside and just walk around. No need for weeding and digging; no, this is the time to examine the hardscape.  If things look flat and lifeless, think about adding vertical elements: 


Urns on pedestals.  They don’t even need to be planted in winter (although I always do) to look good.  Small shrubs and trees, fences, fountains, garden ornaments are all good things in moderation.


Here the vertical element of a tuteur helps bring the eye up and provide a little structure – a sort of punctuation point to what would otherwise be rather flat and boring. The fence gives that sense of enclosure so vital to a good garden design.

How about the ratio of deciduous to evergreen trees and shrubs? Winter is the perfect time to make that assessment:


Evergreens add color, structure, and visual interest to the winter garden.

And I think the winter garden just cries out for berries. Nandina “Heavenly Bamboo” is just one of the many great berry-bearing shrubs that can liven up your garden all season long. 


And if you look closely in the lower left, one of “the boys” is sniffing around.

One final example of an excellent hardscape:


Last up, a quote from one of my favorite garden writers, Mr. Beverley Nichols. More on him another day.

“Even in the grimmest winter days a garden can give an appearance of discipline, and a certain amount of life and colour, no matter how wild the winds nor dark the skies.”

About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. And the odd thought or two.
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5 Responses to Spring Is A Hussy

  1. A lovely post, and such a beautiful garden. Elegant in snow, I’m looking forward to photos from your garden as the season unfolds. Best wishes, WG


    • Thank you, WG. I am grateful for this nice spring rain we’re getting this morning. Everything is just bursting forth here in Central VA. And your garden, too, I see.


      • 😉 I was surprised to see hostas up and ferns unfurling in my parents’ garden yesterday in Chesterfield. It looks like Central VA may be even a little ahead of us here in W’burg. Lovely rain, but not very nice on the fruit tree blossoms 😉 Best wishes, WG


  2. I came to this post as Hussy was my maternal Grandmother’s maiden name and then I find that it is all about beauty in the garden! Perfect. I love your looking at the hardscapes of winter gardens – the structures then are the bones of a bloomfilled space in Summer. 🙂


    • There was a lovely actress back in the days of the silver screen named Ruth Hussey. Hussy is such a typical Southern term although falling out of use. A true Southern belle pronounces it almost as though it were spelled with ZZ’s. A huzzy, y’all.


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