Welcome Stick Season: In Praise of Beautiful Bark & Colorful Twigs

January 7th, 2019 § 2 comments § permalink

Cornus sericea : Fire in Ice

In New England, winter is often referred to as stick season. It’s not a term of endearment. November, December, January and February are long, dark months, and by March we are truly longing for the green leaves that won’t appear ‘til May. Six months is a long time to live without color and for this reason alone, planning a winter garden is important.

Betula papyrifera: Chalky White Beauty from a Distance and Peachy Peels Up Close

Why do so many gardeners overlook this long season when planning and planting in springtime? My guess is that by May, when garden centers finally open, it’s just impossible for for twigs to compete with flowers! Perhaps anticipating the distraction will provide incentive to design a four season garden in January!

The Backlit Beauty of Acer griseum’s Auburn Curls

Feeling bit of mid-winter cabin fever? Travel back to my winter garden design posts —such as this one from last year— for a little insiration, then take a stroll around your yard with a camera in hand. Now come back inside where it’s warm, pour a hot cup of tea, and pull out your photos and a notepad. How could you add to the picture? Cornus sericea twigs for vertical red or chartreuse lines? Betula papyrifera for peeling, peachy cream scrolls or Acer griseum for curls of orange and rust? Perhaps the multicolored exfoliation of Stewartia pseudocamilla, Cornus kousa or Halesia tetraptera, among others. And remember the many flowering beauties with hidden, winter interest: Heptacodium miconioides, Hydrangea quercifolia and Physocarpus opulifolius to name a favorite few.

I Enjoy the Brilliant Bark of Cornus sericea and Cornus alba Cultivars on Garden Walks as Well as from Windows, Throughout the Winter Months


Article and Images copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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A Garden Made for Winter

February 17th, 2018 § Comments Off on A Garden Made for Winter § permalink

A Winter Wonderland, Just Outside My Studio Door

Winter in New England can be long, dark, cold and dreary, to be certain. But if you are a lover of magical, frozen landscapes, beauty also abounds. By mid-February, I often find myself feeling a bit house-bound and restless. The cure for cabin fever? Why a garden walk and a bit of mid-winter pruning, followed by hot cocoa in the lounge chairs of course! If you design your landscape with winter in mind —keep those frost-proof pots and weather-proof furnishings in the garden— there’s plenty of beauty to take in while stretching your legs out-of-doors. Things looking a little ho-hum out there? Well now’s the time to take notice. Grab your camera, as well as pen and paper, then head outside for a good, critical look.

Dogwood Branches (Cornus sericea), in the Garden with Hoary Ice Crystals

When shopping for plants this spring, pay close attention to bark color and texture. Perhaps it won’t matter much in May —especially when compared to all of those bodacious blossoms at the garden center— but come January, you’ll be grateful for the advice. Some of my favorite shrubs, such as Cornus sericea or Cornus alba, while not unattractive during the growing season, are really nothing much to look at in June and July. But when those autumn leaves drop and the fog rolls in? POW.

 Winter Walkway with Layers of Textural Plantings

Another design tip worth sharing? Think texture! Layer your garden with nubby, fluffy, spiky and bristly trees, shrubs, perennials, vines and grasses. Plants with rough textures really catch the frost, snow and ice. There’s nothing better for creating a magical, winter wonderland. Mix conifers among the deciduous shrubs and perennials —especially those with colorful textures, bark and/or berries— to create contrast and depth. Creeping, horizontal and upright Juniperus, Taxus, Microbiota decussataPicea abies ‘Nidiformis,’ and Pinus mugo are just a few garden-worthy species that will add tremendous winter delight. Looking for shrubs with colorful fruit? Travel back in time to my post, “Oh, Tutti Frutti: It’s Candy Land Time! Magical & Colorful Ornamental Berries” for more ideas.

Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata) along the Northwestern Walkway, with Miscanthus sinensis and Viburnum Hedge, Beyond

 

Miscanthus sinensis Always Puts on a Great, Autumn-Late-Winter Show

In addition to trees and shrubs, there are so many winter-garden-worthy perennials plants, vines and ornamental grasses to consider when designing a four-season garden. Pay attention to species with semi-evergreen or evergreen foliage, large or plentiful seed pods —particularly the tough, bristly types and dark, smooth ones!— as well as grasses with durable stems, tufts and blades. Some long-standing, perennial favorites? Actaea, Amsonia, Baptisia, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Echinops, Echiveria, Eryngium, Eupatorium, Humulus, Hellebore, Liatris, Nepeta (especially taller species), Rodgersia, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Sedum and among others. As for ornamental grasses …Oh my, where do I start? I love our natives —including Panicum, Pennisetum, Calamagrostis, Carex, Chasmanthium, Festuca and Schizachyrium— but also adore exotics, such as Miscanthus and Hakonechloa. It all depends upon the location and look you are trying to create.

Tea Viburnum (Viburnum setigerum), is a Knock-Out from November through February. Colorful Berries Really Show-Off Planted with Buff-Colored Grasses or Green-Grey Conifers. Delight!

Of course, the most important aspect of winter garden plantings is location! Place these valuable additions to your garden design where you will be able to enjoy their colorful bristles, bark, berries and structural lines. I like to locate plants with winter-durable fruit, interesting seed pods, peeling bark and texture outside my favorite windows, where I can enjoy them throughout the year. Entryway gardens are always good spots for plantings, to be sure, but also mix winter interest plants thoughtfully along main walks and garden pathways; positioning them near kitchen windows, bathrooms and in places where you might spy them while doing paperwork at your desk. It pays to plan now, and make notes for spring planting season.

Rosé for Breakfast? Why Not? Even if I’m Stuck Indoors, This Garden Vignette, Visible from My Windows, Fills Me with Joy.

When high temperatures struggle to reach freezing, and feeding the wood stove is a round-the-clock chore, time spent outside is short and to-the-point. Leisurely garden strolls? They truly are of the question some days. Still, I find ways to appreciate the beauty of nature, even from indoors. Trees and shrubs planted near the house —especially those just beyond the windows and doors— catch glistening snow, ice and sunlight, and playfully dance against the wall as shadows.  And if all else fails? Well, there’s always the magic of Jack Frost to help us through the winter…

Halesia tetraptera Through Jack Frost’s Newly Embroidered, Lace Curtain

 

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Photography copyright Michaela Harlow at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Late Autumn’s Lingering Beauty

November 29th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

Viburnum setigerum in the foggy garden with Miscanthus sinensis Tea Viburnum (Viburnum setigerum) paired with Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’) on a Foggy Morn

When nature is generous with her warmth, November is one of my favorite months of the year. We’ve had a long, luxurious autumn; warm days, clear nights and foggy mornings. Blissful days for a gardener.

Two of my late-season favorites at this time of year —Viburnum setigerum and Cornus sericea— have proven particularly lovely this fall. Well worth adding to your garden design plan, I promise (once again).


Cornus sericea in the foggy gardenRed Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) lights up a moody day

Photography & Text ⓒ  Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, artwork, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of Michaela Medina Harlow and/or The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without permission. Thank you!

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Brightening the Winter Landscape with Bold Bark & Colorful Conifers . . .

January 15th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) in a Sea of Green Conifers ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina Harlow - thegardenerseden.comA Shot of Luminous Color in the Wintry Landscape: Cornus sericea Lights Up the Entry Garden in January

It’s easy to create a colorful garden in June, but can beds and borders still be bright in January? Of course! While undoubtably more subdued than midsummer, a midwinter landscape can include a complex variety of hues. When perennials are fast asleep beneath snow and deciduous trees and shrubs stand skeletal in the wind, the winter landscape relies upon broadleaf evergreens, conifers and the pigment-rich bark of deciduous woody plants for color. Individually, these trees and shrubs add tremendous interest to the winter garden, but when used together, even more dramatic results are possible. I like to play green, blue, rust and gold hues of conifers against one another, and in combination with the colorful red, yellow, orange and multicolored bark of deciduous trees and shrubs to enhance their impact.

Microbiota decussata (Siberian cypress) with a Dusting of Snow ⓒ 2013 michaela medina:thegardenerseden.comSiberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata) is a Long-Standing Favorite. Form, Texture & Four-Season Color: This Gem Has it All! Shown Here is a Section of a Mass Planting of Microbiota in My Own Garden. Notice How the Background of Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Brings Out the Rust-Red Color of the Siberian Cypress. Proper Pruning of Both Plants is Critical to Keep the Edges Feathery and Light.

Some of my favorite trees and shrubs for colorful, stand-out bark include red osier and red/yellow twig dogwood (Cornus sericea and Cornus alba, respectively), willow (Salix), striped maple (Acer pennsylvanica), paperbark maple (Acer griseum), and paper birch and river birch (Betula papyrifera and Betula nigra, respectively). When it comes to conifers —although I have a tough time choosing— I admit a soft-spot for feathery Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), colorful Siberian cypress (Microbiota decussata) and brilliantly hued false cypress (Chamaecyparis), as well as textural Juniperus (juniper) of all species and colors. I’m also quite fond of the silver-blue spruce clan, spiky, multicolored pines and dramatic, two-toned firs.

Betula papyrifera with Juniperus in snow ⓒ 2013 michaela - thegardenerseden.comThe Peeling, White Bark of North American Native Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) Creates Beautiful, Peachy-Cream Vertical Lines in the Landscape. When Played Against Green Conifers, the Effect is Quite Stunning on a Winter’s Day.

Never one for wrapping, tenting or coddling woody plants, I demand a great deal from all of the trees and shrubs in my own landscape, as well as in the gardens I design for others. In New England, deciduous trees are bare for nearly half  the year. So when designing gardens for my clients, four season beauty is always a top priority. In addition to color, many deciduous trees offer textural interest with exfoliating and curling bark. These elements add wonderful dimension to the landscape, even during winter dormancy. When choosing and positioning woody plants in the landscape, consider placing shrubs and trees with colorful or exfoliating bark in front of or near conifers with complementary and contrasting hues to bring out the best in both. If space allows, plant in masse for greatest impact, and combine with a foreground or side accent of sturdy, ornamental grasses (such as Miscanthus) for buff and blond hues and softness. For more about textural bark, click back to my previous post on the subject, here.

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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