Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Winter Walk



My daughter, Katie had the opportunity to explore the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum a few days ago. Originally designed and planted in 1949 it has gone through several renovations – encouragement for all those of us who have to periodically edit and re-think our own gardens!

I found the photographs she took a wonderful inspiration for new winter ideas in my own garden which I thought you would also enjoy.

My clients often tell me that what they love most about my landscape and container garden designs is the way I combine plants to achieve beautiful color echoes and memorable vignettes. If I’m honest, however, I tend to focus on spring and summer combinations yet these images have reminded me of the extraordinary beauty when time is taken to pay attention to winter groupings; a time of year perhaps when we need the greatest lift to our spirits as the rainy days, cold winds and heavy snow storms seem endless – at least here in the colder climates.


Certainly many gardeners are familiar with the concept that a mass of red or yellow twig dogwoods makes a stunning winter display, especially when emerging from a blanket of snow. However, I really love the way the yellow-green stems of these dogwoods stand in stark contrast to the carpet of black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens). So simple yet so effective. I might even be tempted to underplant the mondo with yellow crocus to repeat the dogwood color in spring, or perhaps the dwarf ‘Tete a tete’ narcissus.


One Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis) is attractive but when a group flank either side of a walkway they create a colourful and fragrant journey. Spidery flowers in shades of yellow, red and bronze are a welcome sight on a grey Seattle day. Skirted by the rich green foliage of hellebores (Helleborus sp.) and large fleshy elephant ears (Bergenia sp.) now tinged red in cold weather, this winter vignette could be adapted for the smaller garden with ease.


Who can resist running their fingers through a curtain of dangling catkins? Obviously not Katie who stopped to enjoy the improbably long catkins of this silk tassel (Garrya sp.) swaying gently in the breeze!


Despite the recent heavy snowfall many early flowering Rhododendrons are ready to burst into full bloom promising bold visions to come.

An entire book could be written about this gem of a garden and I haven’t begun to do it justice. However every picture tells a story of winter beauty that is pure eye candy as well as a source of ideas for captivating combinations for the home garden.


To find out more about this wonderful winter garden, to see a map and print a full plant list, enjoy their website. Better still, if you are in the Seattle area grab your camera and head over there for a leisurely stroll.

With many thanks to my daughter Katie for the use of her beautiful photographs and idea for this post.

To see this winter wonderland under a blanket of snow enjoy renowned photographer David Perry's recent post and spectacular images

14 comments:

  1. It's amazing to see color appearing in your part of the world. I love black mondo grass -- easy to grow and divide. Lovely photos.

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    1. Thanks nittygrittyman - I'll pass on your compliments about the photos to Katie!

      Yes I love the mondo too and use it a lot at the edge of container gardens in both shade and reasonably sunny locations. I especially like it growing over bright green moss - the contrast is gorgeous.

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  2. Always beautiful photographs - that make me green with envy! Katie has her mother's eyes for gorgeous landscapes! Hope you're home soon and all is well!

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  3. Thank you Karen. You're always so encouraging. I'll be back home in a weeks time - looking forward to seeing my family, friends and garden again although this time has been an unexpected gift with my Mum in the UK.

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  4. Karen,
    Drop a few Kaufmanniana 'Giueseppe verdi' tulips into that bed of Black Mondo, I think the yellow and red flowers would pull out the yellow in the dogwood and add some red tone to the mondo grass. It blooms very early in season for a hot burst of color. The foliage even has a red mottling to it.

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  5. Katie's photos are wonderful! Those catkins are amazing! My husband gave me several yellow twig dogwoods for Christmas. They are planted, but nothing really associates with them yet. Thanks for giving me ideas!

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    1. I'll pass on your compliments to Katie Deb - thank you!
      What a great Christmas present from your husband! Major brownie points to him.
      I also like the suggestion for the tulips mentioned above. It would be easy to add a few when the grasses are planted.

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  6. Great photos! Love this garden. It is truly something special for us here in the Pacific Northwest. I can't wait for the Azara to flower and the Chimonanthus is the most deliciously scented of flowering plants along with the Daphnes, the Hamamelis, the Sarcococca, etc. etc. etc...sigh....

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    1. Hey there Riz. I'm drooling........ You mention several on my wish list! Any recommendations for some which are also first class the rest of the year in full sun?

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  7. Your walk was full of eye-catching treasures. I especially like the dogwood among the black mondo grass...stunning! I have lots budding here as well. The first bloom of the daffodil was in January...I can't believe it.

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    1. Yes Katie really made me feel as though I were walkinb beside her. The dogwood/mondo combo is inspired and definitely one I want to find room for.

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  8. I wish winter looked like that where I live. But your post inspires me to add plants that can provide interesting structure and maybe some color all year long.

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    1. Maybe we can brainstorm a few ideas. Whereabouts do you live? Feel free to email me if you'd rather - the link is on my blog somewhere!

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