I’ve gardened in sunny South California, where weather reporters are all but unable to forecast anything out of the ordinary – there’s a joke in San Diego that seasons are more about whether or not it rains.
But for the past eight years of shuttling between my gardens in Mississippi and Lancashire, northern England, it seems to me that there are mainly two distinct seasons in the British Isles – a brilliant if cool summer with long, long days, and a seemingly never-ending wet, chilly winter, with fairly drawn-out segues of what pass for spring and fall.
My Mississippi garden, on the other hand, has five seasons, from a mild occasionally-frozen mid-winter through two nearly imperceptibly drawn-out and overlapping springs (early and late, with completely different sets of weather and flowers); a long, torrid, breathtakingly-humid summer with temperatures that remain warmer at night than England rarely ever even gets up to in the daytime; and a month or so of subtle changes in Autumn color.
No matter. There are countless combinations of evocative accessories to carry gardens in all climates through the changes of weather, and weather-tolerant plants to boot.
One night this winter, Mississippi’s midwinter camellias and early paperwhite Narcissus were buried under an incredible six inches of snow that disappeared completely within two days. My iron fire bowl was a welcome respite from the cold.
Meanwhile, England and Wales had blue-sky days that punched up the colors of an incredible variety of plant sizes, shapes, textures, flowers, berries, bare trunks, and bark.
All else fails, be sure to leave some dormant grasses unpruned until late winter, and allow some flower stems to remain as well both for their textures and brown hues, and as a source of seed for migrating wild birds.