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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Upon a Winter-Kissed, Autumn Day: Magical, First Snowfall in the Garden . . .

November 9th, 2013 § Comments Off on Upon a Winter-Kissed, Autumn Day: Magical, First Snowfall in the Garden . . . § permalink

Secret Garden, First Snowfall - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com A Snow-Kissed, November Morning Surprise in the Secret Garden

November is an unpredictable month; nebulous skies shifting with blue-grey mystery. One moment the forest is flooded with warm light and the next, swept up in a chill. The first snow fell here yesterday —dusting the garden in a pretty swirl of lacy white — and the balmy days of October are but a beautiful, fading memory.

Helleborus x hybridus and Hakonechloa macra in the Secret Garden - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Frosted, Starry Helleborus x hybridus Leaves & Winter Blond Hakonechloa macra in the Secret Garden

I’ve a few more garden chores to finish up this month, but with few exceptions, cutting back perennials is not on my list. No, there’s too much charm to be found in a candle-lit, winter garden to let a case of über-tidiness ruin the show. After freezing fog and icy mist settle on a cold autumn night, a morning walk through the crystalline borders is pure, diamond-dust-delight. I prefer to enjoy the frozen blowziness of tufts, tassels and wayward strands throughout the winter, and so, set the shears aside ’till early spring . . .

Snow-Dusted Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light') - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Evocative of Fine Venetian Lace, the Garden’s Delicate Textures, Traced in Snow White 

Secret Garden Steps with Snow - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com The Secret Garden Steps, Dotted with Minty Green and Chocolate Brown, then Sprinkled in Confectioner’s Sugar

Autumn Leaves and Snow - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Swirling Sangria-Hued Leaves Mix with White, Wind-Driven Snow in the Garden (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’)

November Snow Squall in the Garden - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com The Mixed Border —Packed with Fruiting Shrubs, Still-Standing Perennials and Ornamental Grasses— Whips About Wildly in the November Wind. Why Surrender the Beauty too Soon? Set Aside the Shears and Sit Back with a Warm Cup of Mulled Cider.

Tea Viburnum Fruits (Viburnum setigerum) with Snow - michaela medina harlowTea Viburnum Fruits Swing, Radiant as Ruby Chandeliers from Snow-Dusted Branches (Viburnum setigerum)

Siberian Cypress -Microbiota decussata with snow -michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata) and Wooly Thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) on the North Ridge Path

Flame Grass - Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens with snow in November - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Bittersweet Strands of White-Tufted Flame Grass Dance Agains the Blue-Green Curtain of Conifers (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

Birch Trees in Snow Squall - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com The Pretty, White, Vertical Lines of Paper Birch Carry the Eye Up and Onward, Through the Snow-Swirled Rusty-Grey Hills

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 asking first. Thank you!

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