|The view outside my library sliding glass door. The boxwoods on the terrace are filling in, and I hope the evergreen trees and shrubs in the new West Island, below, will survive the winter and grow larger so they can be seen more easily from inside.|
- There are no such things as "winter blooming" plants for us, unlike for gardeners living in Zone 7+ areas. Even the earliest flowers rarely appear before mid-March in Iowa, and we hardly even have any green foliage showing by then. The entire landscape, even the grass, looks dead until March, and March isn't winter.
- Small-scale winter details like bark texture, colored twigs and berries must mostly be viewed from close-up. Unless trees are planted right next to the house (which can cause foundation problems and loss of sunlight -- important to have in winter), this means that the viewer must travel outside, and I think I established in my prior post how not fun it is for many of us to spend time outside in the sub-freezing, windy conditions that we have nearly every day in winter here.
However, I want to be clear that I don't think our gardens should simply "go away" during winter, and leave us with nothing to look at outside our windows -- perhaps I didn't make that clear enough in my post. I was mainly referring to the idea of planting certain plants because of their winter details or early blooms, which, other than planting evergreens for structure, seemed to be the main idea of most of the "garden in winter" books that I discussed in my last post.
A number of readers, including Linda, who wrote a good post about the topic on her own blog, Each Little World, responded to my post that they need to look at interesting things outside their windows during the winter. I absolutely agree; I too look out my windows numerous times each day during winter (and every other time of year) and need to see something happening, the progression of winter, the slow coming of spring, the masses of flowers I hope to see in summer. This is one of the main reasons I live in the country: for the views.
|My first view every single morning, from my upstairs bedroom window.|
And I mentioned in my prior post that the view is more interesting if there is something outside your window besides a perennial bed that has been cut down to the ground, lying flat under the snow. Planting evergreen shrubs and leaving some perennials standing over the winter definitely yields more interesting views from inside, which is the only place most cold winter residents experience their gardens from for four months of the year.
But I don't really consider garden structure to be for winter interest. Garden structure should look good year-round. Hardscape elements such as paths, benches, pergolas and sculpture make the garden more interesting during every season of the year, as do evergreen shrubs and trees that retain their leaves and form all year.
Gardens should be designed to be seen from strategic points inside the house, no matter what the season. I feel certain that the beautiful view in Linda's last photo of her blog post looks just as breathtakingly beautiful throughout the year, not only in winter, because her garden, like many gardens of Japanese influence, has such a strong structure.
Another reader, Larry at Conrad Art Glass Gardens, commented that he enjoys watching birds out his windows. Many people do; I would love to put up a bird feeder, but the same dog that allows me to garden virtually deer-free also insures that our property is largely bird-free. I wouldn't want to tempt birds into a dangerous situation by providing food for them close to the house, and Puppy would likely scare them away from a feeder anyway.
It's not that I don't think we should try to find interest in our winter landscapes, only that "garden interest" means foliage and flowers and fragrance, as well as garden structure, to me. The writers of those "garden in winter" books clearly think so too, because aside from recommending a good structure in a garden, they otherwise concentrate mostly on early flowering shrubs and bulbs, which is understandable. It's flowers and lush foliage that delight most of us -- why most of us started gardening in the first place -- not interesting bark, twigs or dead stalks standing in winter. I'm not saying there's no beauty in those things, only that they compare so poorly that I find it hard to get too excited about them.
|An ice sheet forming on my bathroom window has a similar shape as the conifers in the windbreak outside, and also echoes the edges of the window treatments.|
This is a very interesting topic and I've loved reading what everyone has written about it. Many people have heartfelt opinions about "the garden in winter" and winter is just the time we need a bit of "heat" in our discussions! Thanks again for reading and for your comments, which I feel privileged to receive. -Beth