Winter gardening? Yes. Winter garden? Not so much. We hear a lot about “winter interest”—which has to be one of the saddest phrases of the gardening lexicon—in plant descriptions and recommendations. And while it’s true that there are plants that look fabulous in snow and freezing weather—red twig dogwood, most big grasses, hollies, birches, and evergreens, to name a few—I can’t really see that they add up to a garden, at least not how I define the term. For me, a garden needs flowers, buzzing insects, leaves falling or unfolding, or any of the other activities typical of spring, summer, or fall. My garden stops in winter, which is just fine with me. I’m pretty much ignoring whatever winter interest it may have.
Ideally, my garden would be coated in snow from the beginning of December to the beginning of March, which would be pretty, but that rarely happens. Instead, in between snowcovers, I avert my eyes from the bare ground studded with shrubs and stubborn perennial foliage. Instead, I turn my attention to my indoor plants and the many, many bulbs I’m forcing.
This year, I have a weird, tender one from Longfield Gardens— Scilla maderensis, which presumably will emerge without a chilling period. We’ll see. I like the spots.
The outdoors intrudes, somewhat, in the form of a continual Hitchcockian feeding frenzy around the bird feeder, and the weirdly active pond fish, who are supposed to be dormant, but pretty much swim about happily (one assumes) all winter.
But all I expect of the plants is that they return, robust and floriferous (if called for), from their winter’s sleep. They don’t have to be interesting. I’m OK with winter, as long as I don’t have to spend too much time out in it.