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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of January 9, 2017

Winter interest blue jayWinter interest in your garden

Ah, the Nor’easter snowstorm. Why not look at the bright side? There’s nothing quite like a blanket of snow to showcase winter interest in the garden. Look at it like a blank canvas. (Or, in my case, it’s like throwing a sheet over a mess when company comes over, because I never did pick up the last pile of leaves I raked in the fall.)

The structure of plants really pops against a plain background, so it’s a good time to look around at your garden’s “bones” and make some notes. While you are at it, enjoy the berries and bark that provide the subtle color and textural appeal in the January landscape.

  • When Mother Nature blankets us resilient Massachusetts gardeners with a thick quilt, the optimists among us take advantage of the opportunity called “winter interest.” It exists because of the principle of design known as contrast. What elements are contrasting here? Color: light and dark. Texture: smooth and fine. Line: curved and straight. As you go about your business this week, see if you can spot more examples, and share them here.
  • This week’s theme of winter interest continues with another example of garden contrast. Dark and light are, of course, opposites. But red and green are also opposites on the color wheel. Rough and smooth also compete for attention.
  • Motion in the garden is another element of design to contrast, because there are less distractions in the winter. When you plant for birds, you can turn your still pictures into videos! There are many design elements like this you may have never considered. If you want help getting the most out of your garden, use this handy tool to find some help.
  • When you plant shrubs for winter interest, it can change your whole outlook on life. While others might focus on the inconvenience a storm brings, those who look for the opportunity to see the beauty created by the contrast begin their day with optimism.
  • Often overlooked, sound is another element of garden design. It is usually created by a designer who includes a water feature in a garden. But consider, for a moment, the winter evening storm. The softest sounds have all been absorbed by the snow, when out of quiet darkness a barred owl asks its perpetual question “Whoooo cooks for yoooooooou?”
  • Winter temporarily strips away the overabundance of inputs, allowing us to focus on the simple beauty nature provides.
  • For those whose idea of “plants for winter interest” means enjoying the beauty of plants inside your warm house, a fresh crop of houseplants have been grown for you, like these at Kennedy’s Country Gardens in Scituate.

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