Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year. For gardening begins in January with the dream. – Josephine Nuese. This quote, which I first saw on a Hudson Valley Seed Library Facebook post, speaks to me. Like other gardeners in northern regions, gardening in my Zone 6b south-central Connecticut region begins in January.
Actually, for me, gardening never ends. Though I let my gardening brain rest a bit through the end-of-year holidays, ideas and designs for the upcoming year are never buried so deeply that they are suspended until spring. Serious review of the frozen landscape commences when dawn breaks on the New Year.
As I peruse the views from inside our home, I note which outdoor features become highlights in the winter landscape. The less favorable go onto a needs attention list, later prioritized as higher- and lower-level projects for the upcoming months. Views of neighboring property always become a high priority on this list; I continuously plan plantings to increase our winter privacy.
As viewed from the front windows, the house nearest to ours is somewhat blocked by existing native shrubs and trees plus those we’ve added over the years. Two existing mountain laurels are fenced to prevent deer browsing. Both beech trees – the forward one plus the one partially blocking the nearest house – are existing native plantings we’ve encouraged to grow. The use of existing native trees and shrubs makes sense for environmental, design, and budgetary reasons in that native plantings suite native insects, birds and soils, native trees and shrubs help match the gardens and property to surrounding woodlands, and existing natives are free – they are perfect ‘right plant, right place’ plantings.
To compliment the existing natives we’ve added a pink dogwood (Cornus florida ‘Rubra’), a juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue Point’) hidden by the larger laurel in this photo, and two very small American holly (Ilex opaca) transplants (position noted by blue arrows but not view-able in the photo) that I hope will eventually grow into stately evergreen trees.
To bring more greenery into this winter view I’ve added a globe spruce (Picea pungens glauca globosa, circled in blue) that is still not sure it likes this setting, a leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum circled in orange), Leucothoe axillaris (circled in yellow), a Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ (circled in white) and, most recently, two slow-growing pyramidal spruce (Picea glauca ‘Sanders Blue’ circled in pink) to the mix.
A closer-up view from a slightly different angle better shows the still small evergreens. Though leatherleaf viburnum and leucothoe carry deer-resistant claims, the deer browsing our yard browse both during winter months. But both plants bounce back pretty easily each spring, so I tend to leave them unprotected. Also, since the taller ornamental grasses have outlived their usefulness in this location, crowding many of the deciduous shrubs and trees, I plan to move them to a different location this spring.
As the native and new plantings continue to grow, this portion of the front will be amply ‘greened’ for winter viewing.
By contrast, the opposite side of the front yard view still lacks winter greenery. Because of the upward slope there is no need to block views of distant neighbors, but a few low-growing conifers or other evergreen foliage would compliment the existing beech trees and ground-level moss.
The main issue in this area is ledge running very close to the surface, which makes digging adequate planting holes difficult. Still, how and where to incorporate winter greenery to this side of the front yard is worth some winter pondering, and this is one of the best aspects of winter gardening.
…For gardening begins in January with the dream …