With a little planning winter landscapes offer beauty and visual interest. After a light snowfall last week I took a few pictures of my winter garden. Think contrast--light & dark, hard & soft, round & square, sun & shadows, evergreen & deciduous, form & fluffy, tight & loose, black & white, bark & leaves.....enjoy
My Winter Garden Slide Show (Press Play):
For fun I found some pictures from the rest of the year from similar vantage points. Just think...all these dormant plants will burst with color soon.....Press Play for the slide show.
I thought about writing a list of New Year's gardening resolutions, but there were many already posted on the internet. So, I thought January offers the opportunity to reflect on our winter garden. In regions where plants go dormant in November and come back to life in mid march (depending on the weather) gardening enthusiasts dream of warmer months by delving into the numerous plant and seed catalogues that start to arrive in early January. Plant catalogues help appease the duldrums and inspire images of warm spring, weather and sunshine.. To survive the clouds and muck of grey skies, This year's first blog begins with a reflection on how to use nature to improve the winter blues. The short days and lack of sun can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder. I'd like to share some ideas for getting focused on the positive and using the winter garden as a means for easing the winter blahs.
Let the Sun Shine In
Have you heard the tune: "Let the sun shine in and face it with a grin...."? The idea that lack of light can profoundly affect people’s mental states has gained traction in mainstream medical circles in recent years. One solution is at-home light therapy. I'd like to suggest a compliment to this. Make weekly trips to a local botanical garden and if possible plan a monthly day/weekend trip to a new garden.. In the Pittsburgh area we are blessed with Phipps Conservatory. Its a beautiful place to bask in the seasonal garden shows, wander along an indoor babbling brook in the orchid room, and imagine the summer heat in the cactus room.. New York, Delaware, Chicago and many other cities offer botanical rooms and greenhouses where a trip can transcend the local seasons and bring you to a place of warmth, flowers, and joy.
Below are links to a sampling of indoor gardens within a day's drive of Pittsburgh:
New York Botanic Garden
Link to Phipps Conservatory
US Botanical Gardens
Cleveland Botanic Garden
New York Botanical Garden
There's a saying, "there's never bad weather, just bad gear." I'd have to agree with this except when side walks are icy and slippery. Invest in some comfy warm weather gear and find a trail or arboretum near you. Pittsburgh's Botanic Garden offers winter walks. Chatham College in Oakland is considered an arboretum and is a beautiful campus to walk and enjoy the landscape. Take note of the various trees, their bark and structure. Many cities and communities have invested heavily in an amazing network of rail trails that are relatively flat and often parallel waterways or weave through the woods. In Pittsburgh and surrounding countryside we have the Great Allegheny Passage that links Pittsburgh to Georgetown. Keep your eye open for birds of prey, cardinals, fox, and deer.
So often when the ground thaws we are enticed to run to the garden center and buy what's blooming. Consequently we have a landscape filled with plants that only bloom in May or June. This year make an effort to reflect and identify areas that need a winter boost.. While you're hunkered down on a winter's day, observe what you see out of your windows. Use your smart device or camera to capture pictures of important views from within your house. Often these views are observed from the kitchen window, a breakfast nook, home office or bedroom. Also 'point and shoot' pictures of your house from your car as you approach your drive way. What views do people have when they drive by or come to your front door? To help give you a fresh perspective, print the pictures and lay them out on a table. Is there a place for you to improve the structure and bones of your garden? What can you add to bring visual beauty to that view in the winter?
When designing a landscape I always consider what the beds and house will look like in the winter. After creating the backbone of the garden and adding winter focal points, I include the 'fluff', so to speak. These are the transient bloomers that offer beauty for a few weeks during the spring, summer or early fall. While these plants are important the winter garden is the place you want to start when making your spring purchases. Plants with unique barks, leaves or structure give extra value for the space they take in small or urban gardens. Sculpture, heated birdbaths, and architectural elements also add winter interest. Stayed tuned to February's blog where I will discuss and profile my favorite winter plants for urban and small gardens.
On those days when you can't bear to go out and the winter blues are kicking in, plan ahead and prepare a winter bird garden. One way to bring a smile to your day is to watch birds frolick and enjoy a winter bath. Make sure you can view it from a comfy location in the house. The first and easiest feature of a winter bird garden is a heated birdbath. There are many available at different price points. Invest in a good extension cord, too. Simply sit back and watch as migratory birds stop in for a sip. Keep a good birding book nearby to identify and log them. To increase activity use a bird feeder and / or plant shrubs and trees that provide shelter and food for winter birds..
Bring the Garden Indoors
An indoor garden has multiple purposes when it comes to beating the winter blues. The first is the actual work involved. You will be actively growing things in your home. This requires physical labor. One of the problems with mid winter blues is that it creates a lack of desire to do virtually anything. When you have a garden to tend to then you will find yourself performing tasks daily that keep you from lying in bed and feeling down. You have to keep up with the chores if you want your garden to be a success and it gives you a purpose for your day that is more than necessary.
Some indoor garden ideas include:
Force Bulbs and enjoy the scent and flowers. These plants grow quickly and give beautiful results for little effort. You can order on-line bulbs that are already forced,. Local garden centers and hardware stores will often carry them.