• Halley Bartlett

New Eyes: The Winter Landscape


Marcel Proust is accredited with stating "The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." This means many things to many people, but consider our winter landscape.


Subtle, sculptural beauty can be found in the leaves, branches, dried fruits, and forms of trees, shrubs, flowering perennials, and grasses. Set in the broader context of an entire garden, property, or public place - the botanical details bring life to the frozen landscape that sometimes appears static.


When designing spaces at any scale, seasonal change must be taken into consideration. The benefit being throughout all seasons, there is something new to observe, something of interest, happening in your landscape. Spring and summer offer brightly colored and fragrant flowers and fall brings the dramatic changing of leaves. Arguably the most underappreciated of the seasons to design for is winter. Keep in mind: if cold weather makes immersing ourselves in the landscape difficult, we can hope to enjoy the beauty from behind the glass in our homes, workplaces, and automobiles.


It is important that we understand the vegetative 'palette' we can work with to add winter interest to our landscapes. The most prominent design vocabulary includes evergreens, bark and tree form, and persistent fruit on flowering trees.


Evergreens are the obvious answer to the 'winter interest' question. They provide winter color and screening through all seasons. When using evergreens, keep in mind there are several different forms. It is also important to understand the full grown size that evergreens will reach.


Bark and tree form interest can add a significant amount of details to your landscape in the winter. The bark of poplar and paper birch offer the well known white bark, but copper curling bark is also beautiful in the winter. River birch is a great example of this. The form of a deciduous tree or shrub will be on full display in the winter. This is especially beautiful when all the branches are frosted.


Persistent fruit is one of the least utilized methods of adding landscape interest in the winter. Persistent fruit means that after a tree or shrub produces fruit, ideally brightly colored fruit, the plant holds onto those fruit instead of letting them fall to the ground. The effect is beautiful dots of (usually) red or pink shining through branches covered in fresh snow. There are several apple tree cultivars and even some in the Euonymus family that do this very well. Persistent fruit is especially attractive to birds, squirrels, and rabbits during the winter - adding another level of activity to our winter landscape.


Enjoy what the winter landscape has to offer. It requires a little more effort. Find your new eyes.



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