Winter interest revisited


Every year about this time, or maybe later, I brashly state my lack of interest in winter interest, at least as far as my own garden goes. That’s still true. After I get the bulbs in, the pots covered, and whatever shrubs need it protected, I am done. I can’t even feed birds this winter because nearby construction has stirred up critters I’d rather not see (or feed). Birds still hang out in the garden all day long; I have no idea why. It could be they’re managing to drink through the pond netting. They seem to find plenty to interest them, anyway!

This year is a little different. (ya think?) We’re hanging out in the garden with chosen friends on occasion, regardless of chilly temps, but even that has not made me appreciate the winter garden. I appreciate the friends. Other than those sadly rare times, the garden is traversed with little notice when I leave the house. Often, when I leave, I am heading to places with real winter beauty.

There are landscapes nearby that provide all the interest one could want, including plenty of wildlife—the type I enjoy viewing. One of the loveliest is Tifft Nature Preserve. It is just south of downtown; we could actually walk there, except that the walk might impede our ability to walk as much as we’d like through the preserve. This place is actually just as beautiful during winter as it is at any other season. It has plenty of water, boardwalks, and wooded trails. The foliage colors during winter include green, gold, orange, gray, and brown. Birds provide other colors, including red, blue, yellow, and more. (Tifft is an Important Bird Area.)

Unnatural color is provided by the enclosures necessary to protect young plants (trees, shrubs, perennials) from being devoured by the deer that roam here. My husband delights in seeing these creatures; I am somewhat less enthusiastic. I know how my gardening friends in the suburbs suffer from deer. In the depths of winter, they basically eat anything. The Tifft naturalists are trying to reduce invasives and plant more natives throughout the preserve, but they are severely impeded by the depredations of deer, which strip the bark off the big trees (below the netting) as well as devour smaller plants down to the ground.

Though I love wandering through Tifft, it doesn’t make me long for a bigger garden with more wild spaces. It provides just enough winter interest to make me appreciate my fireside all the more.

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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 regular 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


      • I get why people pile up their brush, but this looks like it’s piled up right against the tree trunk, which doesn’t seem like a great idea.

        • I tend to give the Tifft folks the benefit of the doubt on this. I am sure they have reasons. Interestingly, the reason the enclosures are colorful is so people will take note of what has to be done to protect the plants.

    • In an urban garden, these opportunities are minimal, though I do enjoy the way the snow clings to a few of major elements.


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