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