Observing The Winter Garden

Hips of Rosa glauca

Winter’s solstice has past and New Years is fast upon us.  Amazing that another year has gone by, calling for introspection in those rare moments when we have a minute of down time.  I finally got a chance to get out in the garden to survey how everything looks after our harsh November cold and wet December.  In a lull without rain, with the air incredibly still, I took my camera out to capture the winter garden.  I love the light at this time of year.  When the sun does grace us with its presence, the slant of the rays is magical through the mist off the pond and the dripping wet branches of the evergreens.  If only I were a better photographer, I could capture it all as my eyes do.

Moss and orange fungi on a dead snag are anything but subdued

The winter garden, no matter how strewn with downed branches and debris, is quietly glorious.  The noticeable lack of the kind of riotous color provided by flowers and foliage at other seasons seems to heighten the effect of the more subdued colors now found. Standing out are the curious fruiting bodies of fungi and lichen on rotting logs, bare branches and patches of earth seeded by years of spores.  A shroud of grey clouds brings all the more attention to the berries the birds have yet to snag.  

Lichen on dogwood

Lichen on dogwood branches

Interestingly enough, what caught my eye as I walked my property were not the things I had planted or constructed.  I learn this lesson over and over in my life: the seemingly serendipitous ways of nature are always more compelling than the artifice of the designer.  I am grateful that I have areas on my property where nature continues to speak to me.

I thought about collecting the moss and lichen laden branches thrown to the ground by the violent storms of the past month to make a wreath—symbolic of our Pacific Northwest winter.  What a treat it was to take a quiet moment to do nothing but observe the garden.  Here’s to allowing ourselves more of these placid moments of observation in 2011.

© Colleen Miko, 2010

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About Colleen Miko

Colleen Miko is a certified professional horticulturist with 20 years experience in landscape design who has designed award winning gardens for the NW Flower & Garden Show as well as HGTV’s “Landscaper’s Challenge”. Colleen is a freelance garden writer and speaker who regularly writes "The Perennial Bookworm" where she reviews garden and natural science books, as well as a regular contributor to "WestSound Home & Garden Magazine" on a variety of horticulture topics.
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2 Responses to Observing The Winter Garden

  1. Yes, there’s definitely more to life than plants–there’s fungus too! I love your thought of assembling a fungus wreath. What a terrific way to celebrate where you live and the natural processes humming all around you! I saw a lot of fungus growths on my last little hike, and I keep a dead little plant by the front walkway just because it’s covered with lovely lichens that I don’t want to displace.

    • Colleen Miko says:

      Well, the hellebores are budding up and so is the Sarcococca…so I’ll have a few flowers dancing alongside the fungi any day now. Our cold snap is not encouraging the buds to open, of course and even the earliest bulbs are tucked in and quiet. And its not enouraging me to get out either, not even to collect branches for a wreath!

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