Subscribe via Email

If you're not receiving email notifications of new posts, subscribe by entering your email...

Snow Day on Beech Street

Norway Spruce

Snow Day for the Norway Spruce at dawn

I knew it was a Snow Day, no exercise class, when I woke. When I went out to take this photo at 6:30 am the plows had not come through and it was still snowing. Not as much as predicted, but enough to close the schools and the Y.

river birch and snow

Snow and River Birch

Time for coffee and reading before the day really  got under way.

Sycamore and Lilac Tree

Sycamore and Lilac Tree

The sun was hiding, but sharing some of its light. In town there is no room  for the wind to create sastrugi, but I remember those waves fondly.

Son Phlip and his snow shovel

Wasn’t it clever of us to buy a house right around the corner from No. 1 Son. And he insists that he loves shovelling – and lawn mowing. My husband did make it out before the job was done and the two men finished up in no  time.

My Winter Garden in Color

Red winterberries and osier dogwood

Red winterberries, osier dogwood and arborvitae in my winter garden

My frigid winter garden is peaceful, blanketed with snow. Mysterious tracks speak of the creatures that wander across the landscape, leaving hints of their dancing in the bright moonlight, or shifting shadows of the breezy day. Tiny birds frolic near the Norway spruce, and seem to be feasting on the spruce seeds left for them on the snow.

My town winter garden is small, and very different from the fields of Heath, where the snow danced with the wind, jiving its way down the hill and into the woods of Heath.  However, no matter whether you have an urban plot or country fields, the winter garden needs no hand or back to tend it during the colder and colder days of the new year.

What the winter garden does need is thought in spring, summer and fall about which plants can add interest during the cold and snowy months. That interest can be created in numerous ways. Color comes to my mind first because it immediately makes itself felt. Because I wanted color in my winter garden as I chose shrubs for my low maintenance and wet garden I first chose dogwood shrubs. I bought the aptly named red twig dogwood with its bare crimson branches that stand out elegantly against the snow.

More and more people have become familiar with red twig dogwoods, Cornus alba, with cultivar names like “Prairie Fire”, and “Midnight Sun” as well as others with varying sizes and shades of red.

Cornus sanguinea cultivars like “Arctic Fire” are smaller than the C. alba. Not all of the Sanguinea family are solely red. “Midnight Fire” is quite golden turning red at the tips.

Cornus sericea is the family of osier dogwood shrubs. I have one that lacks a cultivar name, but it has both red and yellow-green branches. I have always called my third cornus a yellow twig. I believe it to be “Flaviramea”. When the sun is shining on it I find it even more stunning than the red twig . It is also extremely tolerant of my wet soil. The lower branches that touch the ground easily sucker, and I could have babies to share.

Gold winterberries

Gold winterberries

Berries are another way of adding color to the winter garden. Again, because my garden is wet I chose swamp loving winterberries.  One is the necessary male, two produce red berries, and one has surprising golden berries.

The former owners of my house planted two beautiful English hollies. One, the female, is quite large and filled with scarlet berries, while the other, the male, is somewhat smaller, and bears no berries. If I had neighbors that wanted to have a berried holly, they might not even need the male. Pollinators can easily travel around a whole neighborhood.

English holly

English Holly

A berried tree I have come to admire in Greenfield is the hawthorn that produces lots of red berries. The berries certainly provide winter interest, and feed the birds.

In addition to berries some trees have the advantage of unusual bark. I have planted two river birches which have a peeling sort of bark with cinnamon tones. This is a tree that loves the wet, and the bark is just as beautiful as that of the white birch.

River birch bark

River birch bark

When I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum’s wooded Monk’s Garden I was fascinated by the paperbark maple, Acer grisem, which has bark in shades of brown and reddish brown that peels away to reveal the new cinnamon-y bark.

A friend gave me a beautiful book for Christmas, The Winter Garden: Reinventing the Season by Cedric Pollett (Francis Lincoln publisher) that shows the drama of these plants in the garden, especially when planted in masses, which is to say in groups of two or three.

Pollet took beautiful photographs of many winter gardens, most of which are planted on a scale larger than many of us will enjoy. These are English winter gardens where the weather is much milder than ours in New England. Even though we share many plants the blooming period might be different because of that milder weather.

One of the especially helpful aspects of the book is the section given over to photographs, descriptions, and needs of many dramatic winter garden plants. One of the  trees that captured my attention was the maple Acer conspicuum.  It certainly would be conspicuous in a garden because during the spring and summer the bark is a shade of orange, turns pink in the fall, and scarlet in mid-winter. However, Pollet says it is hardy to -11 degrees, and right now that is feeling a little iffy in this year’s glacial winter.

I have not mentioned conifers because I do not have much experience with them. We did plant a couple of Green Emerald arborvitae next to the majestic Norway spruce at the back of our yard and they are doing quite well, in spite of the fact that the soil there is wetter than conifers appreciate. These are popular privacy or hedge evergreens, and that is their function in my garden.

Evergreens certainly make a statement in the winter garden, and they are not always green. In fact, conifers are so disparate in color, texture and form that they need a whole column of their own, but some other day.

For now I close, with wishes for happy gardens of every sort in 2018.

Between the Rows   January 6, 2018

Melting, Flooding and Maybe Spring

February 25, 2016

February 25, 2016

The melting season with its flooding  is upon us. A year ago, three months after we actually moved into our new house, the back yard looked like this after milder temperatures, snow melt and rain. We had known that the backyard had a big ‘wet spot’ but we didn’t expect this.

February 25, 2017

February 25, 2017

One year later and the flooding isn’t as bad. It is possible to see the progress made in the increasing size of the beds, and the creation of our Hugel at the rear of the lot that is a part of our flooding abatement/no-need-for- irrigation project.  The temperature  has been mild and was 60 degrees on the 25th so the snow that had piled up was decreasing rapidly, helped by a thunderstorm with heavy rain early in the morning.

View from the window on February 28, 2017

View from the window on February 28, 2017

Still more melting and on this last day of February when the temperature is again 60 degrees, it feels like spring. In these days of worry about global warning that seems a mixed blessing. On the other hand, this is New England where the weather is never dependable; winter may still give us a few bites.  And yet – there are tiny daylily shoots coming up in the hellstrip.

View from the Window – January 31, 2017

View from the Window January 31, 2017

View from the Window January 31, 2017

The view from the window on this last day of January when the noon temperature is 25 degrees shows how the snow has melted, and where the wet spots in the garden are located, in front of the stone wall, and down the paths. Snow is predicted for this afternoon but everyone is hoping the Punxatawny Phil, the groundhog, will not see his shadow two days hence and assure us that there will be an early spring.  He is only right 39 percent of the time, but last year his prediction of an early spring was on the money. I went shopping for more shrubs on March 21 – and then planted them!

Iced April – View from the bedroom window

View from the Bedroom Window

View from the bedroom window April 10, 2015

The view from the bedroom window shows a world iced with crystal and shrouded in mist.

Yellow birch

Yellow Birch – Iced and shrouded

I love taking photos of this yellow birch in the west field. So mysterious shrouded in fog.

Iced trees

Iced trees on April 10, 2015

I didn’t worry about all the perennials buried under three feet of snow all during the frigid month of February, but ice on the weeping cherry is definitely a worry.

Ice on  the wisteria

Ice on the wisteria April 10, 2015

I wonder how the wisteria feels about all the ice. Probably not happy.

View from the Bedroom Window – March 2015

View from the Bedroom Window  March 15, 2015

View from the Bedroom Window March 2, 2015

February ended cold, and March began cold. 10 degrees at 7 am on March 2. The fountain juniper is almost completely covered.

View from the Bedroom Window  March 4, 2015

View from the Bedroom Window March 4, 2015

More snow yesterday, but warmer temperatures – over freezing.

View from the Bedroom Window  March 16, 2015

View from the Bedroom Window March 16, 2015

Temperatures are staying at freezing or below – but the fountain juniper  begins to reveal itself.  The only place to find color is at the Smith College Spring Bulb show.

Veiw from the Bedroom Window   March 22, 2015

View from the Bedroom Window March 22, 2015

More sun, but still freezing temperatures. And yet melting – or subliming – continues.  “Sublime  verb –  to move from a  solid (ice or snow) to vapor.”


View from the Bedroom Window  March 26, 2015

View from the Bedroom Window March 26, 2015

I wouldn’t have taken a photo today but the early morning fog is so beautiful.  Last night there was rain, then snow.  By noon the sun was shining and the temperature had risen to 50 degrees!  Not for long.

View from the Bedroom Window  March 31, 2015

View from the Bedroom Window March 31, 2015

And so March finally ends. The snow is still deep and frozen over most of the landscape.  Last year there were patches of bare ground. What will April bring?

For more (almost) Wordlessness the Wednesday click here.

Frigid February View from the Bedroom Window

View from the Bedroom Window

View from the Bedroom Window February 5, 2015

The view from the bedroom window by February 5 showed that another 25 inches of snow had fallen since February 1. Cold and often windy with just below zero temperatures on a few nights.

View from the Bedroom Window

View from the Bedroom Window February 10, 2015

Another 18 inches of snow on February 9, but sun on the 10th.

View from the Bedroom Window

View from the Bedroom Window February 27, 2015

Occasional snow showers over the rest of February and continuing frigid temperatures. Minus 12 on February 16 at 7 am. Often windy with wind chill advisories common.  You can see the heavy snow is beginning to slip off the Cottage Ornee. Fortunately, it slipped off the house roof  by itself, while others were having to shovel their roofs. Glad to see February go.

Bright and White and BarelyFreezing

February 10, 2015

February 10, 2015

It is bright and white and barely freezing. The snow has stopped. The plow arrived. One car got  out.

The house at the End of the Road

The house at the End of the Road

Sargent crabtree in Sunken Garden February 10, 2015

Sargent crabtree in Sunken Garden February 10, 2015

The snow has fallen and drifted into the Sunken Garden, half burying the Sargent Crabtree. The western wall is over six feet high – also buried.

Cottage Ornee February 10, 2015

Cottage Ornee February 10, 2015

Plowed Snowbank February 10, 2015

Plowed Snowbank February 10, 2015

If you look closely you’ll see a tiny branch at the right of this photo, hinting of the three hydrangeas now buried – and probably damaged. Sigh.

Plowed snowbank at the End of the Road

Plowed snowbank at the End of the Road

We are really really happy that our ‘driveway’ is town road, plowed and maintained by the  town, but I do wonder how far my wood chip pile has been pushed into the field.  Oh well, it will be waiting for me in the spring. Temperature reached 32 degrees today.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

From Heath to Cambridge, MA

Heath, MA February 5, 2015

Heath, MA February 5, 2015

On Thursday the snow stopped long enough for me to make my escape from Heath, onward to Cambridge, MA for a visit with my son and a writer’s workshop organized by the Garden Writer’s Association.

Porter Square, Cambridge MA

Porter Square, Cambridge, MA

And what did I see when I got to Cambridge, MA?  Snow. And ice. And icy icy sidewalks.  I should have brought my YakTrax.

Porter Square in Cambridge, MA

Porter Square in Cambridge, MA

I think snow is more of a problem in a city, but the trip was more than worth it. C.L. Fornari, author of Coffee for Roses: and 70 Other Misleading Myths about Gardening, and GWA member. She gave a great talk about how to be a great speaker – skills that are also important for the writer, especially if she is trying to make a living. You will hear more about C.L. later. I gave her a copy of my book, Roses at the End of the Road and I think she looks like she is already enjoying it.

C. L. Fornari, author of Coffee for Roses

C. L. Fornari, author of Coffee for Roses


Sastrugi Finally Forms at the End of the Road


Sastrugi February 1, 2015

It hasn’t been a great winter for the formation of sastrugi. The snow has been heavy and wet, not much given to drifting. But this last snow storm brought frigid temperatures and high gusting winds. The result is the first sastrugi of the year forming at the western lip of the Sunken Garden. The word sastrugi is from a Russian word which means snow wave  or caves. We have all noticed them.


Same sastrugi February 2, 2015

More now. The sastrugi  shifts and  the Sunken Garden is filling up with drifts.


Sastrugi February 3, 2015

I couldn’t resist adding this photo showing the final sastrugi sculpture now that the snow and wind have stopped.


Gentle sastrugi waves February 17, 2014

Some times  the sastrugi waves are very gentle


Sastrugi cave along the road January 24, 2009

A windy winter brings many sculptural shows like this sastrugi along the road. The wind is a powerful and artistic worker.


Sastrugi collapse February 3, 2010

Sometimes the sastrugi is so extreme that it collapses under its own weight.  You may also notice the depth of the drift in the Sunken Garden. That stone wall is over 6 feet high.  The Heath winds come blowing from the northwest  across the open field and dump tons of snow into the Sunken Garden. I often have to  shovel the last icy bits of the drift out onto the lawn to help get all the snow out of the garden.