Learning to Love a Winter Garden

Learning to Love a Winter Garden

Posted March 1, 2023Image preview

I grew up in Southern California where almost everything is in bloom almost all of the time, which has its pros and cons, I am the first to admit. Subsequently, I lived for a long time in Denver, Colorado, where almost everything freezes almost all of the time, which has no benefits at all as far as I am concerned. Years later, I moved to England, and it was there that I began to appreciate the fullness of year-round gardens.

My first winter in England, I was thinking that nature looked a bit dreary, and by January, I was already longing for Spring, but then a friend offered to take me to a local National Trust Property, telling me how much she loved the winter garden there. I was skeptical, but willing to go along. It was a good decision as I learned so much on our visit, and it was through my friend that I first came to appreciate the beauty of a winter garden.

From my point of view, one must look first at the trees. There is something so architectural, structural, about the branches of various types of trees, and it is not even necessary to know what the variety of tree is because it really doesn’t matter. Each has its own shape and design and pattern. What I think I love most is looking up at a blue sky through the bare branches and twigs of any deciduous tree. The geometrical shapes one sees are fascinating. If there is a “hoar” (frost) on the trees, it is even more delightful.

Most Head Gardeners in England encourage leaving buds and seed heads on during the winter rather than cleaning up the garden too fastidiously because this provides food and shelter for all sorts of animals. Concomitantly, of course, it also provides artistic palettes and sculptures for human visitors. The contrast of the brown, dried leaves and flower heads, often covered with hats of snow which will eventually be replaced by Spring green and summer color truly adds to the beauty of the changing seasons. Snow on the tree branches and seed heads is such a special bonus. One gains a deeper appreciation of what blooms in summer after noting what the life cycle of the flower, tree or plant is year round.

Now, living high above the Boston Common and the Boston Garden during the winter, I marvel at my tree-top view of all four seasons and have learned to love the cold winter displays of yellowed weeping willows, brittle brown branches, frosted ponds and icy rose bushes – although I do very much look forward to Spring when I can get my hands back into the warm soil of my Onset garden.

Written by Randy Comfort, WLT member

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