Winter Wonders

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.

Light Frost
Light Frost

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.

Mississippi Snow
Mississippi Snow

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.

Cheery Winter Fire
Cheery Winter Fire

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.

Bodnant Winter Garden, Wales
Winter Scene, Bodnant Winter Garden, Wales
Witchhazel Hamamelis intermedia 'Jelena'
Witchhazel Hamamelis intermedia ‘Jelena’
Yucca 'Bright Edge' provides excellent midwinter texture and color
Yucca ‘Bright Edge’ provides excellent midwinter texture and color

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.

Brown is a color too
Brown is a color too

3 Replies to “Winter Wonders”

  1. Hey, some parts of Southern California get more than one season! Since last summer ended, and before next summer begins, we are in this in between time. It gets dark earlier in the evening. It gets cooler. Strange droplets of water sometimes fall from gray stuff that floats in the sky above. It is quite a distinct season!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, the remark is sorta tongue-in-cheek; I lived in San Diego three times (worked in a garden center, installed irrigation), and still lecture up and down the coast, Central Valley, and in Napa and Marin counties…
    I’ve seen hail in Encinitas!


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