Last Monday I picked a lone snowdrop to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I put it in this shamrock tea cup that I inherited when Mark's mother died, along with the matching handkerchief. I added some chunks of moss that the squirrels had dug up and flung into the midst of the snowdrops. This Monday, my Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno' are up in full force but I found the single flower so appealing that I recreated the arrangement again.
Temps are going to be colder this week with possible snow today and then rain for the next few days. But none of that will slow down the snowdrops now that they've started. And my three new varieties should arrive this week "in the green" from Carolyn's Shade Gardens on the East Coast. To see what gardeners elsewhere have put into a vase today, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who hosts this wonderful weekly meme.
Winter in Wisconsin tends to mean house plants (I've got 'em) or blooms from the grocery store (Alstroemerias with evergreens are in the front hall). Since I can't go out into the garden and cut flowers to put in a vase I dropped out of my favorite meme, In a Vase on Monday. I missed participating in this fun and inventive gathering of gardeners. So, I'm back — albeit taking the concept in a more conceptual direction. We have so many rocks gathered on visits and vacations that I decided to enjoy them in a vase. Voila!
To see what others have put in a vase today, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who hosts this Monday meme.
The current cold and snowy weather has garden bloggers ranting and raving about "winter interest" in the garden. Elizabeth Licata, a Buffalo gal like me, says it's a myth. Evelyn Hadden, who left Minnesota for warmer climes, says we just need to get out into the winter garden to love it. Beth, an Iowan who blogs at Garden Fancy, looked at the books on the subject and the realities of cold weather for those of us who garden in the Upper Midwest. As she says, where we live the cold can kill you!
Readers of this blog know that Mark and I moved to this property specifically to creat a garden. We spent a lot of time looking out the windows the first winters we lived in our house, well aware that we'd be seeing snow for a good part of each year. We looked forward to an annual break from garden work but we didn't plan to turn our backs to the garden in winter. Certainly not given the expanse of glass that brings the outdoors into our house.
We read all the books that Beth mentions on her blog, like "The Garden in Winter" by the late Rosemary Verey, and a number of others. Currently I own seven books on the subject. They all had something valuable to say and we listened. Here's our take on winter interest.
We added art to the garden that would be visible even in deep snow, including this lantern and a sculpture of Buddha that sits on the deck. We also added a number of very large rocks.
We emphasized the sloping terrain in our garden with steps and walls and berms to give us a more dynamic scene.
We were lucky to have some big evergreen trees on site but we added lots more: Pines, Spruces, Yews, Arborvita, boxwoods to name a few. They offer a variety of colors, textures, forms — and size.
These apple branches mark the edge of paths in the summer and provide a graphic punch in winter.
Our deck furniture stays outdoors year round adding pattern and a bit of color.
Fences, gates and sculpture all add drama. This view has always reminded me of the garden shadows cast by a fence in Rosemary Verey's book (Pg. 24 if you have a copy).
This bell is too heavy to blow in the wind, but the smaller bells right outside our back door always alert us to the weather.
More sculptural drama in the front garden.
The grove of River Birch trees is in front of an evergreen hedge to highlight their pale color and peeling bark. Each tree was placed for viewing from inside the house.
These weed trees make a mess with berries in the summer but their bare trunks are gorgeous at this time of year.
The ivy looks great even though it's dead by now. I pull it down when the snow melts and let it start climbing again.
Every gardener knows about 'Autumn Joy' Sedum and grasses for winter interest. But my favorite is this Carex greyii which provides a touch of intergalactic glam.
When I realized we had planted trees that had persistent leaves, I was completely bummed. But after a few years I came to love their warm color and papery texture, so at odds with the season.
We did not think of Carolina Silverbell as a winter interest tree when we planted it. But it holds its seedpods which is a bonus. We just added a second one in a more visible location.
This is my lolipop lilac coated with ice and buried in snow right up to its crown. This is planted next to the driveway where we can enjoy it every season.
I am so in love with this view of the garden that I have a framed photograph of it. It's currently sitting out next to a picture of my sister's house in Vermont in winter. They both have white mats and white frames making them even more wintry.
Beth in Iowa says that you should include winter interest in your garden under these conditions:
If you enjoy being outside in your winter
If you garden in zone 7 or higher
I haven't been outdoors in five days and I garden in Zone 5a, so clearly I don't meet her criteria. But I can't imagine how long and dreary and downright disastrous I would find winter without my garden to cheer me up.
This year I was able to walk in the garden in December and cut branches to bring indoors just like the Brits. Some years I've had snowdrops in February, though March is the month they usually appear; definitely not on the same schedule as English snowdrops!
I believe winter interest in a garden in the Midwest is not only possible, it's necessary. I want to look out the window and see something beautiful in January, February and March. It's the only way I'm going to make it through the snow season. Though I love my flowers, I guess I like pattern, structure and green even more.
Saturday's warm temperatures melted the snow on the streets but the snow on the ground mostly stayed the same. Here and there it slid off branches but nothing changed dramatically in the garden. Once the snow arrives, the garden has a brief moment when plant structure and hardscaping stand out.
But that can all disappear quickly depending on how early it snows, how much snow we get and how cold the termperatures remain. In general, I want a good snow cover of a foot or two to insulate the plants from the wind, coldest temps and the sun here in the upper Midwest.
The Yew and Boxwood balls are just soft mounds now.
Looking back in the other direction.
The view across the garden. The gate in the second photo is on the left edge in this picture.
It's warm, it's raining and the snow has disappeared. Feels like a January thaw after the unseasonably cold weather we've been having. This was the view out the living room window Sunday morning. The pond is still mostly frozen; the rainwater is pooling on top of the ice.
What this means is that there is not much left in the garden to use in a vase. Luckily I brought these summer remnants indoors before it snowed. They're in a vase on my bathroom vanity. Sedum 'Autumn Joy', a stem of White Pine, and assorted bits of dried ferns.
Two tiny vases on the kitchen windowsill hold the last stem of curly parsley from the garden and two cuttings from Pelargoniums that I am half-heartedly attempting to root. Gardeners in my part of the world are hunkering down for winter along with our gardens. But lots of other gardeners continue to display lively creations in vases at Rambling in the Garden, host of this weekly meme.
Mark and I met Lee Melahn and Rick Shaver when they opened a terrific little shop devoted to all things domestic in a tiny brick house on Madison's east side. The two have a blog which shares its name with their former store — Pleasant Living Home — and a business Shaver/Melahn Studios in NYC where they specialize in furniture and interior design.
But they live much of the time here in Madison where they have family connections. Not long ago Lee came over to intervew Mark and me after he and Rick attended a garden party here in late summer. The result of his chat with us — along with pix of our house and garden — is here.
A group of us were invited to a wine-tasting cum dinner party Sunday at the home of friends in the neighborhood. Cindy and I are gardening pals, so she invited me over to play with flowers on Saturday afternoon! We went through her gorgeous garden armed with clippers and buckets of water, and then proceded to make a number of arrangements to display around the house. Below are a few of the results of our labors.
These first two images depict a Victorian sculpture that belonged to Cindy's mother that rests at one end of the fireplace mantle.
I like how she contrasted the drama of the figure with an airy group of plants: Spirea, Ninebark and Anemone japonica 'Honorine Jobert'.
This big pot rests at the foot of the fireplace. I tried to balance the size and strenght of the pot with a big display of dried material that was subtle enough not to detract from the pot's elaborate design. The stems with the long yellow pods are the seedheads of Hosta 'Whirlwind.' Next year I'm letting more of my Hostas go to seed to see if I can end up with any of these lovely stems.
This arrangement uses Hydrangea flowerheads that have been drying for about two weeks. Interspersed are three candles arranged asymmetrically.
In the center is a small jar holding Ninebark, red Barberry and more Anemone. Dried Sedums add contrast between the Hydrangeas.
I decided that it was time to use a vase that was as much a part of the composition as the plant material. This low glass vase by Madison artist Richard Jones of Studio Paran is embellished with a design of silvery leaves of grass. It also has a small kenzan glued into it making it suitable for arrangements with vertical elements that need to be held in place.
This display relies on leaves rather than flowers for effect, including Iris germanica, Salix 'Golden Curls , Euphorbia dulchis 'Chameleon,' and Heucherella 'Alabama Sunrise.'
We have not yet had a killing frost in the city and the low temperatures this week don't look too low. So I expect to have at least another week to fill a vase for this meme. To see what other gardeners have put in their vases today, visit Rambling in the Garden.
After reading garden designer/blogger Deborah Silver's inspirational post on Fall Container plantings, I decided to take a closer look at this one that I have glanced at on neighborhood walks.
"A bit bright for my taste" was my first thought. "If they want to add some plastic palm fronds, why not?" was my second thought.
It was only on closer observation that I realized the blue fronds were ones that had died and been resurrected with spray paint. You can see how big this container planting is compared to me — and how perfectly it complements the neighboring house.