My Name is Don Statham and this is my garden blog. (Seasonal Photos of Don’s Garden)
I am mad about plants, some might say obsessive! One of the points of this blog is to connect with other passionate gardeners who also like to talk about plants, garden design, garden writing and all things horticultural.
Winter is hard enough on plants with all the freezing and thawing, and subzero weather, but we also have to make sure, when we design a garden, that our plants will be out of the way of the snow plow. One of the first questions I ask a new client in this area is, where does the snow end up when the driveway or sidewalks are plowed? Generally speaking they are unable to answer me. Winter is the perfect time to go outside and photograph the piles of snow that are plowed along driveways and sidewalks. It’s easy to forget when the lushness of summer comes, exactly how large the snow piles can grow and where they end up. Having a good photographic record will help you figure out the areas to avoid planting. Late winter, after the snow has accumulated from the many storms, is the ideal time to take photographs so that you document the most extreme amounts. I have some banks of snow that are twelve to fifteen feet deep and 6’- 8’ feet high. It doesn’t mean you can’t have plants in those areas, but you do want to avoid planting trees and shrubs, because they are more likely to be damaged by the plow. Along my drive I have perennials borders that receive many feet of snow, but the perennial plants are cut back in the fall and the snow that ends up on these beds does not destroy the plants.
Last fall, I grabbed some Ilex winterberry in a fall sale and planted a few of them at the bottom of my drive quite a distance from the curve in the driveway. After the first big snowfall of 10 inches, I noticed that the plow had pushed the snow into one of the shrubs. The plant is still alive, but I will need to move it in the spring. I encourage you to keep good snow records because, if you’re like me, you won’t want to have any memory of winter, once it’s over!
Otto and Ruby waiting for plow truck
Entry to drive
Snow bank pushed into Carpinus tree
Snow banks along drive
planting beds along drive-perennials cut back in autumn
path to front door
Plowed snow pile- King of the Hill
Those of you who live in the northern hemisphere, experience a winter season pared to its bare essentials. And it is by no means all bad news. In this reduced landscape you have the advantage of seeing your garden with a particular clarity. Yes, you read that right. Now all the flowering plants have collapsed, this is the time to go outside and look at the structure of your garden. I love walking through the garden on these frigid days. Now I can see where I need a large shrub or fantasize about closing off a view to create more intimacy. My best ideas come now, when everything is stripped, when just the bones of the garden are revealed.
It’s been thirteen years since I began laying out this garden. More than any other time of year, it is winter when I see how plants have matured. It’s almost impossible to see growth in summer, with all the lushness of vegetation, but now, what is revealed are the stems, the branching patterns, shapes and proportions; the hedges, the stone walls, the tall graceful shrubs denuded of their summer frocks. Photos taken at this time of year, help me to dream and make plans for ways to improve my garden. Much of what I will do in spring and summer, will be because of time spent dreaming and reflecting on my garden in the winter.
Box woods add a nice shape in the winter garden
Taxus yews and Rhamnus ‘Fine line’ hedge add structure to the winter garden
Looking through garden to pond
Yew Hedge opening to back garden
A fellow blogger suggested that if you become burned out from writing, the best thing is to take a break. Hence my long absence from this blog.
I have not been idle though. I have put a garden to bed and I have planted some bulbs. Several hundred more grape hyacinth and scilla went into the plum orchard, and for a little whimsy, I planted two hundred Poeticus Narcissus Pheasant’s Eye.
Fall Planting of spring bulbs
Bulbs give pleasure even in the winter, dreaming how they will look in the spring. Gardening is so much about looking forward.
After our first decent snowfall the canvas appeared blank at first, but during a winter walk I took a few photos of the meadows that surround my house. My eye site is better at this time of year due, I believe, to the sharp contrasts outdoors. The dried meadow plants look stunning against the blanket of snow.
And it’s not just the subtle tans, and browns of dried plants that star. The small nursery of willows looks exceptionally bright in the snowy landscape.
My other project has been working on a photo shop plan of my garden. It is my first such attempt, but not my last. How much detail to include, how much to leave out – it’s bit like the process of editing a garden. Winter is such a great time to reflect on our gardens, and I feel like writing again.
dried grasses in meadow
wild flowers along meadow path
Collection of brightly stem willows.
Totem Farm Garden Plan
When plant combinations work it is because they enhance one another. I like to think of these sometimes planned, sometimes serendipitous events as conversations between the plants involved. Repeating the same plant like Malus ‘Donald Wyman’ in my Moon garden with a second tree 70 feet away on the bank of the pond, means that after a long winter the two trees speak across the cold air one beautiful white and pink blossomed canopy to another. Then in fall when the crabapples turn bright red they bond again and your eye is naturally pulled back and forth by the dramatic fruit display.
Other combinations of plants that are dialoguing right now are the shrub Potentilla ‘Primrose beauty’ its soft yellow blooms whisper tenderly to the perennial Kirgengeshoma ‘palmate’ who’s beautiful pale yellow flowers nods in appreciation. A fluke planting, I love seeing these plants making the most of each other. The third shrub Sumac ‘Tiger eyes’ joins in on the conversation with its bright glowing chartreuse leaves.
When combinations of plants work well I make a note of it for future design projects so my clients and I can enjoy similarly harmonious discussions.
Potentilla ‘Primrose beauty’ with Kirgengeshoma palmate
Kirgengeshoma palmate in the big leaf garden with
Potentilla ‘Primrose Beauty’
Sumac ‘Tiger Eyes” joins in on the conversation.
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For years the too small parking area next to the house has been problematic. Regardless of age our friends, you know who you are, crushed my flowering plants along the edge and had to make ten point turns in order … Continue reading
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photography by Iwan Baan and James Golden I began working as a garden designer in New York City in the 1990s when there was a craze for ornamental grasses that I soon discovered was a valuable plant for difficult sites. … Continue reading
Tagged Gertrude Jekyll, Grasses, Iwan Baan photo of the highline, James Golden. Highline NYC, James Van Sweden, Karl Foerster, Mien Ruys, Munstead Wood, Piet Oudolf, The New Perrenial Movement, William Robinson, Wolfgang Oehme
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I recently made a trip to NYC to meet with a client and along the way visited several gardens: Stonecrop in Cold Spring, NY belonged to Frank Cabot, the founder of the Garden Conservancy and his first garden,) Wave Hill … Continue reading