The title says it all


Here’s a column in the Minneapolic Star-Tribute called Winter Interest, Yeah, Right.


And I couldn’t agree more. There are many magnificent winter sights throughout Western New York, but my garden isn’t one of them. If I want winter interest, I’ll drive up to Niagara Falls to check out the rapids  or the gorge, which are beautiful almost all the time, though not quite so much during early spring and late fall. Or I could go in the other direction; the three domes of the botanical gardens are perfect surrounded by white. Winter is a good time for Victorian architecture of all types to shine; at other times, the buildings are obscured by leafed-out trees.


I do have some shrubs that seem to be able to poke up above the snow cover, but I hope they’re not doing it because they expect me to look at them. Your mileage may vary and probably does, but I like the big landscapes in winter. Not so much the small domestic ones. 

I do hope we can keep this cover through February though.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Berries, moss, lichens, conifers all peaking now.

    Flagstone paths edged with brick, focal points on axis with window views.

    Terraces with inviting chairs hinting at the power of Providence to provide in the future.


    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  2. You need more ornamental grasses – very interesting in the snow. The light tan color also stands out when the snow is gone and everything else is grey.

  3. I guess I should feel lucky to live in the big landscape, but there may be a breaking point or such a thing as ODing on winter interest. I want this snow to melt. I want to see bulb foliage emerge. If winters like this persist my status of living in the south should be revoked.

  4. I haven’t trimmed back any of the perennials so they are still protruding through the snow. Call it laziness, leaving seeds for the birds, or that I don’t want to give up these pieces of my garden, whichever you choose. Or all of the above.

  5. My garden is under 5ft of snow. “Winter interest” is provided by the increasing mountains of rock-hard snow piled by the snowplough clearing the road; by seeing whether the tops of the metal arches which support vines in the summer will disappear completely this winter; and by watching the snow shed by the roof make tsunamis half-way down the garden. The wider view is of mountains, mostly hidden by inversions which cloud the valley throughout the winter. Winter interest in the garden is for people in Zone 8 and up who get 6″ of snow at the max.

  6. Elizabeth, I’m exactly opposite you on the landscape/domestic scenery – I love little treasures like birdbaths mounded in snow and branches encased in ice. The large vistas are seldom as interesting to me. “God is in the details” has long been my credo, at least when it comes to scenic views.

    Of course, none of this really matters these days as I live in the land of ‘snows once in a generation’. We have to actually go visit the snow to experience grand frosty vistas or frozen still life images.

  7. Early in my gardening life I became fascinated by winter plants. It’s not my favorite season and I liked, like, the idea of cheating it with the odd Chimonanthus, or Prunus mume, or whatever. We can do that here in DC on the warm side of zone 7. Of late my interests have moved towards “tropical” effects and the garden is now strewn with the dead foliage of bananas, cannas, gingers…. It has never looked so forlorn and neglected! I wait anxiously for spring.

  8. I know lots of people who have ornamental grasses, but they are not visible under 4 feet of snow.

    And I did a double take at the birdbath…was it a mushroom? To my eye, it was a small visual joke.

    Generally, unless you are a professional photographer or see everything with an artistic eye, I think the definition of “interesting” depends on whether on whether one is taking an ant’s view or the big picture.

    When I taught outdoor education in the freezing New Hampshire winter, I learned to find a half dozen different mosses and lichens on rotting tree stumps (in the snow), to identify trees from the bark and buds and smell of broken twigs, to see animal tracks as a (metaphorical) travelogue of who’d been where. Chop a hole through the ice at the edge of the lake, stick in a sieve and there’s an entire world of insect larvae accompanied by stinky warm smell of life below the ice.

    I understand the original comments were about a specific understanding of “view” but I thought it interesting to turn that view on its head for a paragraph or two

  9. It’s nice to look at and to play in for a week or so, but I’m one happy camper not to be living in a snowy climate .
    ‘been there, done that, it’s not for me.
    It’s been an incredibly busy week in the gardens of Nor Calif. due to the wonderful past 10 days without rain.
    The ‘Big Prune’ is on here. Roses, fruit trees, ornamental grasses and succulent divisions ( this is their active growing season) , bed preparation and seeding of poppies, lettuce and other cool season spring annuals.
    No rest for the gardener in a Mediterranean climate.

  10. Hmmm… Seems to me people are falling into two camps.

    Those who like winter interest seem to live in places that don’t experience full snow cover. Berries, moss and lichen? Won’t be able to see those until March. Ditto flagstone paths.

    Those who say Pish Tosh to winter interest seem to live in areas with multiple feet of snow. With four feet of snow on the ground the ornamental grasses, perennials, and small shrubs are invisible. Besides who wants to go out in that mess.

    My New England winter interest is all about the house plants. And longing for a warmer climate.

  11. The six foot grasses are under three feet of snow. The three foot boxwoods are under three feet of snow. The stone walls are invisible under three feet of snow. Even the evergreens are hidden under frosting. Abdication? Done by nature here.

  12. Point well taken. Big landscapes can handle big snows, but the small garden can’t. Winter interest in the small garden is best appreciated when snowfall is light, not 3’+ deep.

  13. When winter truly comes in December, it’s time for me to hunker down and enjoy indoor gardening until the seven foot snow drifts melt in March (maybe).

  14. Nearly a quarter of a century living in Rochester NY has caused me to dismiss the concept of “winter interest” by uttering the word usually written as “Humph”!

  15. Snow don’t bother me! I gotz me a snowblower! Won it online from this very blog! Now all I need is some snow… gonna be 50 degrees this weekend.

  16. I always love the first snow of the year. I love the change in the landscape after a big snow, and the “nesting and resting” I get to do when Winter is in full force. I love the big view, and the small view, little details in ice and snow. I even don’t mind shoveling, as I’m usually in need of the exercise. I’m lucky to live in a place (Oregon Cascades) that has “fun” snow to play in. However, there’s ALWAYS a point right about now where I am DONE with it and ready to move on, seasonally!

  17. Now now! This is exactly why we started the winter photo contest over at the UGJ: to get people out there in the waist-deep snow appreciating all of that “winter interest.”

  18. We’ve got about 3 feet of snow on the ground and drifts and “plow gunk” up to my chest, but I still like the look of the red-twig dogwood in the backyard. It’s a reminder there is a plant in there somewhere.

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