Monty strikes again. In his December post, among talks of Christmas trees, he mentioned a way to assess the structure and bones of your garden. Here’s what he said:
Take the time to go outside and photograph every aspect and angle of your garden. It does not matter how abandoned, neglected or empty it may be. Photograph what is there with a detached and inquiring eye. This is a process of reckoning, of stock-taking and will provide you with hard evidence of what lies at the bedrock of your garden. It is a truism that any garden can look good in high summer but only good gardens look good in midwinter. So use the pictures to plan both how to make your garden look really good at this time of year and to plan for the glorious days that will start to creep in before very long.
Did you catch that bit towards the end? “Any garden can look good in high summer but only a good garden looks good in midwinter.” I’m not sure that is 100% fair for those of us who deal in months of ice, bracing winds, and loads of heavy, wet snow, but it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.
From where I’m sitting, my view is out the front of the house and nearly all of the garden is in my view. Do I find it lacking this time of year?
If I’m being charitable with myself and our conditions, I have laid the groundwork for some great winter structure, its just not old and big enough to look good just now. The Yew hedges will one day (hopefully soon) be lovely green walls and columns standing proud and green against the snow. The willow shrubs do the majority of the heavy winter interest lifting (along with the grasses), but they do lack the color that something like a dogwood would provide. I just like the leaves and shape of the willow so much better.
The Bayberry, Lilac, and Viburnum hedges will also be much more striking as they mature. For now they look like shaggy, wimpy afterthoughts.
There are also trees, or large shrubs, dotted around but for now they are short in stature and impact. They will soon grow large and prominent, anchoring the corners of the garden all through winter. I can’t wait!
Perhaps this is a slightly unfair exercise to undertake when one’s plants are still so small. But small plants or not, I can easily see that my garden is devoid of color come this season (aside from the deep green of the Yews). While bright red and yellow dogwoods would give so much interest, I can’t think of a place where they would fit in (both in shape and texture) aside from the hillside.
While this photo is from last year, the scene is much the same on the hillside. The trees have gotten bigger, but their impact is nearly non-existent as this stage. Would some red-twigged dogwoods spruce up the area? Yes, they certainly would, but I must confess to not loving how they look in the warmer months- they feel plain and unshapely and the foliage all but hides the beautiful stems. Would it ever make sense to grow something you only like in the winter??? Honest question!
I suppose the gist of this exercise is to try to look at one’s own garden with a critical and thoughtful eye- is it doing what I want/need it to do all year round? Do I have the structure I need to keep things interesting come the depths of winter? I think my answer is yes, but not quite yet.
What do you all plant with the intention of giving winter interest? Evergreens? Dogwoods? Something else I’m not thinking of? Share your secrets with me so that next year my view isn’t so boring!