They did not realize they were squatting at the edge of a continent where the weather came roaring across 3,000 miles of solid land, out of the west. It wasn't like England at all. The weather, which is heated and chilled by the giant land mass behind them, made the seasons wildly extreme. The Wampanoags had to show them how to grow anything here, and when that failed, had to feed them.
It's extreme here, but I'm lucky to garden in a climate that has so much variation. New England has five very distinct seasons: Mud, Spring, Summer, Fall Color, and Winter Interest.
What we have here now, people, is the fifth season, Winter Interest.
|Iteas, Aronias, Buddleia, Sundial and Shadows|
To have something to look at in the garden in snow, you need to plant woody shrubs and trees. In January the red berries are long gone, so it's branches and shadows, light and dark, form and blank emptiness, that give the garden focus. A perennial garden simply disappears during Winter Interest in this zone. When the gardening articles talk about putting the garden to bed in autumn, they mean the perennials.
You can leave some perennial seedheads standing, but only the sturdiest can hold up to an onslaught of deep snow.
|Rudbeckia seedheads, a partly buried evergreen Zenobia, and flowerstalks of basil|
Most of the perennial garden looks like a white desert in January and February.
|Perennial garden in Winter Interest|
That's okay for some gardeners; they close up the garden and use the dormant season to wait for spring.
But I don't want to wait for another season. I want to see my garden now, and not just a generic scene of evergreens and snow, but the actual plants. My plants. I love knowing that the combination above of Iteas (Virginia sweetspire) and Aronias (Chokeberry) and Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) still looks good together when they're all branches and stems. And I love seeing the redtwig dogwoods outside my front door.
A bird's nest in the flowering dogwood is abandoned, but the bare branches of the tree still cradle it, and it's clearly visible in winter. The dogwood looks like a shrub branched low to the ground, but it's a tree, with a trunk. It has snow up to the first level of branches, giving it a whole new look during Winter Interest.
You can't go wrong with a river birch in this season. The shaggy bark is a treat. I'm not sure what the mound in front of it is. It looks like something overflowed. I think there's a dwarf spruce under there, but everything looks so different now, I can't tell.
Those of you who are waiting for your winter to end so you can see your gardens again are missing out. I'm enjoying this season, not the cold or the wind or the shoveling, but I like the way my garden looks in Winter Interest. Eventually I'll tire of it just as I do the other seasons, and then I'll be anxious for Mud to start in late March.