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Winter's essence in the garden

The essence of winter is in its shapes and its textures, in its stripped down bareness and honesty. It is in its monochromes and its contrasts, dark against light, warm hearth, frozen water. It is the slap to our senses as we inhale the sharp air or feel the icy hand of the wind push against us.

Winter has come to Alabama, with temperatures dropping into the teens this week. The sky on Sunday morning was cold blue, with rows of clouds marching forward, and the trees raised their dark branches to salute the day.

Walking through the garden, I was aware of some things I may have overlooked in another season. 

A large piece of driftwood has been in the yard since we moved here in 1985.  I like the curving shape of it, and I will miss it when it finally rots away.

I admired the colors of a rock, patterned with lichens.

A bird house in a dogwood tree awaits spring tenants. One summer this bird house had a green lizard as its occupant.

The dried heads of 'Limelight' hydrangea will provide winter interest until spring.

The peeling bark of Betula nigra, river birch is amazing.

Not everything is bare. There are many evergreens. I featured some of them in my post, Evergreens, the regents of winter. A few others, shown below, include:

upper left - 'Saybrook gold' spreading juniper. This beautiful plant is planted on a hillside to take advantage of its weeping branches. I love its golden color.

upper right - Spreading yew grows twice as wide as it is tall. It has deep green needles.

lower left - Osmanthus fragrans, tea olive, is a shrub growing to about ten feet. Even now its fragrant flowers are beginning to bloom. 

lower right -Autumn fern. This is a tough, evergreen fern, which survives with minimal care in the woodland garden. New growth has copper highlights, which gives it its name.

There is another evergreen that I don't own yet, but I have been looking for a place for one in my garden ever since last year when I visited Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. This weeping blue atlas cedar captured my heart with its form and color. A plant like this has to be put in the right place. This one is sited perfectly. It echos the curve of the tree limb above it, and the smaller plant below it echos that shape again. Notice, also, how the curve is repeated in the walkway and how the tree's blue color is repeated in the bench on the right. Fabulous!

Stay warm, everybody, and may you enjoy the essence of winter.  Deborah


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Reader Comments (21)

Beautiful photographs Deb!! Brava! Your words too are moving and lovely. I am taken with the light in your birdhouse picture... the bits of red berries and touches of green... gorgeous photo! The river birch is a beauty. I am in amazement that you can have sweet olive growing outdoors. It has a delicious fragrance. Great post! Carol

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

Georgeous pictures once again, Deborah. I love how you can really "see" the structure and small details of plants that become background, when the brighter colours of flowers are shouting "look at me".

There is so much beauty in the winter garden if we look hard enough to appreciate the subtlety. But all I have to look at now is white, there's snow everywhere!

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobinL

How well you have captured the beauty of the garden showing us things that we may easily overlook when the garden is in full bloom. I love the lichen and bark.

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle (azplantlady)

Deborah, what beautiful pictures and lovely text! I LIKE gardeners who love winter - and you make me long for it!! Jack

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack Holloway

I just love the detail in that Betula photo - its wonderful when you look closely at all the detail we seem to overlook at other times of the year. In some gardens its quite a challenge when they are all covered in snow.


January 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterleavesnbloom

Love your photos, Deb. You have so much more color than can be currently found in our nearly all white world in Connecticut.

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjoene

We do appreciate things in a different way in the winter. It looks very pretty in your garden now. I just love the birdhouse!!

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Hi Deborah,
I just enjoy looking at your pictures of blue sky, they are lovely. I see that you don’t have much snow either, we have been having some snow, but it melts the next day... that’s not much fun.

I have two cedars, they are not weeping, they are Cedrus atlantica Glauca, also blue variety. I love them, although I’m not sure that I have planted them in the right place, well time will tell.
Enjoy winter!

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervrtlaricaana

What amazing photos, especially of the river birch bark! There's lots of beauty to be found in nature in winter, when we slow down to have a look around, as you so well point out.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjodi (bloomingwriter)

Wonderful winter images, Deb! The birch bark is amazing. Stay warm!

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

Pardon my ignorance, but I didn't realize Alabama had a winter. Thanks for setting me straight.
Your pictures and words are beautiful and inspiring. Keep up the good work.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindee

Awesome!! A gorgeous goreous post! Fantastic job...Loved it! Beautiful photos!

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKiki

Juat found your blog via Blotanical and really enjoy seeing your photos and reading your thoughts.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

You have a natural photographers "eye'. Love the contrasting limbs against the sky.Beautiful !!!

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersanddune

HI Deb. LIZA AND JOHN’S GARDEN enjoyed our visit to your blog.
It's always a pleasure to meet another Gardener.
Have a Great Day,

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJWLW

Lovely post, Deb,
and thank you for dropping by!
(I left a reply to your comment Bay Area Tendrils.)
I saw the news about your cold snap ;-(
We've also had nights with freezing temps that are affecting quite a few plants,
but so far, nothing terribly out of the ordinary.
take care,

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlice Joyce

Wow, Deb, these images give me a completely different sense of winter from the view outside my window here in Massachusetts. Thanks for sharing, and for stopping by my site. Nice to meet you!

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

I love your pictures, especially the peeling bark.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBlue

Some lovely pictures. Very evocative. That weeping blue cedar is just gorgeous.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTwisted Willow

Nice photos throughout, I was looking for articles on woodland gardening, came here. Very pretty thanks-

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTwincapes

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