A Frozen Ending to a Long Month!

A Frozen Ending to a Long Month!

This winter will not soon be forgotten. Record snow falls in January gave way to rain and ice in February. Stories of roof collapses frequented the evening news and ice dams arose from gutters, loosening shingles and allowing melting snow a way inside, soaking insulation before reappearing through finished ceilings.

We still have a short ways to go before spring, but we’ve made it through February! And although it’s the shortest month of the year, it always seems to go on forever, even for a winter loving New England Yankee like me.

Still, despite producing feelings of cabin fever and despair, it’s not without beauty and this year February decided to leave us with one last show. The weather conditions were miserable yesterday, but I just couldn’t pass on a trip outside with the camera. Here’s hoping a few beautiful images will help lessen the sting of a winter that just doesn’t want to end.

Click play and enjoy the tranquil sounds of Al Petteway and Amy White while you view the pictures!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A “somewhat” Wordless Wednesday!

A “somewhat” Wordless Wednesday!

A small warming trend here in Southern New England through the weekend, and it is very welcome! We’ve been lucky so far, no water in the house from ice dams, and the hoop house is still standing strong despite record snows. Some of our neighbors have not fared so well. So before we hit “Mud” Season, please enjoy a few pictures from around the yard while everything is still a pretty and white!

We certainly have had our fair share this winter!
Held up pretty well so far!
A few more windy days and the whole White Pine will be on the ground!
Black Capped Chickadee
Just another day for a Blue Spruce!
Can't wait to unpack and start potting!
BUDS!
Ugh! I guess we're closer to mud season than I thought!

 

 

 

 

A Garden for all Seasons

A Garden for all Seasons

February, the shortest month of the year, can seem an eternity for a gardener. Here in the northeast, we are still about a month away from beginning any serious gardening chores. The vast array of seed catalogues has arrived at our doors, and we have moved from excitedly flipping through each, noting trusted old varietals and new and promising crops to try this season, back to waiting. Relief will eventually come, first in the form of seed starting for those newly purchased vegetable and bedding crops, then will come late winter pruning of fruit bearing and ornamental plants, then finally, temperatures will warm enough to begin working the soil.

Winter can seem an unproductive time, but for the gardener who is paying attention, it can be a valuable time to assess a landscape. Comprised of many components, a garden is built upon and is defined by its structural elements. Referred to also as the bones of a garden, structure might be found in an outbuilding, in stonework, sculpture, walkways and patios. Even plants themselves, can create structural elements; Trees provide ceiling, hedges act as walls, and individual plants act as specimens displaying architectural shapes and interesting growth habits.

Much structural elements of a garden lay hidden beneath foliage during the growing season, but now during the colder months, a garden’s bones are revealed as if by x-ray, enabling one to detect its balance, mass, and symmetry. Problems to any one of these elements can be quickly diagnosed, enabling the gardener to plan for changes to correct them.  Walking the garden during the winter moths also gives a gardener an unobstructed view of the trunks and branches of deciduous plants, revealing damages or disease. There is much to find in the garden during the stark winter months.

There is also beauty. Experiencing a garden in winter can be a treat for the senses. The low arch of the sun casts long shadows that play with the bare branches against a snowy backdrop. Ice crystals form on every surface and backlit by the sun become like stars glistening in the sky. The frozen crunching of footsteps and the crackling of sap from nearby trees fill the air with song. If you have provided food and habitat for birds in your garden, then it will most likely be buzzing with activity, the brightly colored feathers acting as moving blossoms. Venture into the winter garden at night, especially on a full moon and it transforms into a surreal landscape. Never will you feel such a sensory connection to a place as a garden at night, be it winter or summer.

There is much to enjoy in a garden, and when planned for all seasons, the joy will last year round. Cast away your feelings of cabin fever, and shrub off the cold. Take stock in your outdoor surroundings, for at the very least, it will give you a new appreciation of your garden come spring!

A “Snow White” Garden

A “Snow White” Garden

The Garden came alive with activity this morning. The area surrounding the bird feeder was buzzing as a light snow fell. Visitors included Blue Jays, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Juncos, Sparrows, Nuthatches, Chickadees, one Red-bellied Woodpecker, and even a couple of squirrels coming and going. Snow White herself, would not have had a finer guest list, nor would she have enjoyed her coffee as much. Look close in these pictures, and you can see the Juncos busily pecking the ground under the Azalea.

And speaking of Azaleas, note the wonderful structure that this particular specimen (Rhododendron mucronulatum) is providing. It offers the birds a safe haven as they wait their turn to visit the feeder, and an interesting structural pattern, in an otherwise dull landscape.

Consider all of the seasons as you choose the plants that will make up your landscape. Spring and Summer are times of brilliant color, Fall a time of warm hues, and Winter a season of  simple beauty. With a little planning you can create a four season landscape, a haven for wildlife, and your own “Snow White” Garden.

May you find peace and simple beauty in your winter landscapes. Happy New Year!

Scott

www.blueheronlandscapes.com

Become a Fan of Blue Heron Landscape Design on Face book – http://bit.ly/yq1XT

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ScottHokunson

Connect with me on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/scotthokunson

Winter Wonderland!

Winter Wonderland!

I like winter, I always have. The cold, crisp air is invigorating. I love the excitement of watching a storm move up the east coast, and waking up to a new coating of snow. The stark beauty of a winter landscape, the return of our migratory winged friends, and even a simple walk in the frozen woods with the dog will heighten my senses. For those of us who operate seasonal businesses and for those that are gardeners, there are other benefits. Winter signals the end of a long busy season of work. It’s a time with many industry trade shows, seminars, and flower shows to attend, at which we will further our education and reacquaint ourselves with distant colleagues. Winter affords us a chance to stop and take stock of the year and all its successes and failures, it allows us to recharge our batteries, and best of all, we get to start planning for next season’s activities.

Now, before you think the cold temperatures have frozen my brain synapses, I don’t like everything about winter. I don’t like heavy slushy snowstorms, of which we see plenty. The sight of dirty sand and soil foiled up on the roadside snow banks by snowplows is quite unsightly. And even though he is a very nice man, I don’t like seeing the oilman on such a regular basis. These images, images of the dark side of winter, these fill me with thoughts of sipping Pina Coladas somewhere on a tropical beach!

By the time late February and early March roll around, I’ll be getting sick of the cold temps and the lack of greenery. Until then, seeing old friends and family at so many holiday parties, the beautiful fluffy snows of January and February, and old man winter’s many other benefits, will be enough to lift my spirits, as anticipation builds for those first spring crocus to pop through the late winter snows. See now, even that snowy image made you smile didn’t it. Go ahead you can admit it, we know already.

How do you feel about winter? Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay warm,

Scott

www.blueheronlandscapes.com

Become a Fan of Blue Heron Landscape Design on Face book – http://bit.ly/yq1XT

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ScottHokunson

Connect with me on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/scotthokunson

Late Winter Interest at Tower Hill

Late Winter Interest at Tower Hill

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a conference at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston Massachusetts. The conference was not exactly what I had been hoping for, but my trip allowed me to visit a truly beautiful garden finishing its long winter sleep, just about to awaken. Tower Hill overlooks the picturesque Wachusett Reservoir; its entry is a long uphill driveway that passes through thick woods, open fields and a small orchard, finally ending in a tiered parking area. A short walk to the main buildings, including its beautiful Orangerie, passes through a stunning gazebo and several welcoming landscapes. A must see garden, especially if you are within driving distance.

Here, at this time of year, the visitor is met with the mostly grays and browns of the late winter landscape. But, on closer inspection, and with minimal exploring, the sleepy garden begins to reveal its secrets. Pleasures not as visible come summer, are revealed. The curly, twisted branching structure of one of my all time favorite plants, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana contorta) seems to explode as the firework trails left behind during a Grand Finale. The Dark Black puffs of Black Pussy Willow (Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachy’) cover the plant, and appear as thousands of caterpillars standing on end to greet you. In yet another part of the garden, Coral Bark Willow (Salix alba ‘Britzensis’) glows a radiant red and yellow, bringing an otherwise nondescript evergreen backdrop to life. Click the pictures on the right, and see if any of these garden gems deserve a place in your landscape.

You may have noticed that willows are figuring prominently here, and rightfully so. Willows, as do a good portion of the Dogwood genus, have exemplary bark coloration during the colder months, and as such lend themselves wonderfully to the winter landscape. Willows also serve a vital role in ecological restoration projects. They freely root and create a network of structure in the soil that is invaluable to stream and riverbank restoration. Not all varieties are as aggressive though, and are some are terrifically suited for our smaller residential landscapes. Would you like to see more? Bluestem Nursery in Christina Lake, British Columbia, grows a wonderful assortment of willows, ornamental grasses, and perennials. Their website is a great resource to learn more about these colorful plants. When at the website, click on willows, and you will find a great deal of information including descriptions, their uses and awesome pictures!

Now, if you find yourself longing for a walk through a beautiful garden, but think you have to wait until the spring flush of flowers, I would encourage you to visit a botanic or public garden in your area. You just might be surprised at the variety, interest and color that awaits! Oh, and you can always go back come spring.

See you in the Garden,

Scott

www.blueheronlandscapes.com