For many the winter is a time for the garden to close down. Vibrant plants die back and don’t re-emerge until the first signs of spring. This is certainly not the case for this majestic garden which positively glows with life and color through the darker colder months.
This superb garden is the result of careful planning and a lot of hard work by keen gardeners Sara and Ron Malone’s. The photographs here show how their winter garden in Petaluma, California, looks in winter.
Selecting Plants for a Winter Garden
Sara and Ron are fortunate enough to have retired to live on a 33-acre ranch. With more time to work on and enjoy their garden, this energetic couple decided to review their planting scheme. Their goal was to create a garden that required less maintenance and provided pleasure all year round. The resulting garden is in fact more dramatic and architectural in composition. This is due to planting trees and shrubs for their structure, texture and enduring color. As the images show, a mixture of deciduous trees and shrubs, conifers, broadleaved evergreens and grasses have all been incorporated into the foliage garden.
Abandoning the traditional perennials, and planting over half of the garden with more woody specimens, ensured that this garden would look stunning in the fall and winter seasons. This is a mature planting scheme which doesn’t need replanting every year and will only improve with time. Of course a garden like this needs tending. Trees need regular pruning and checking for disease and shrubs need cutting back so that they don’t become leggy or out of control. But this is different kind of work to the repetitious elements of planting, weeding, watering more traditional delicate floral blooms.
Color is abundant in this sensational winter garden , foliates like Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Citriodora,’ Thuja plicata ‘Sunshine’ and Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’, all provide dazzling ground cover. Berries and stems of other plants glow red and purple against the rich variation of greenery. Many rare and unusual plants are exhibited in this glorious garden alongside more typical specimens such as Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’ and Rhamnus californica ‘Mound San Bruno.’
Relying on foliage, berries and plant structures for color, encourages a different kind of planting scheme. Many of these plants have been selected because they actually look their best in winter light conditions, which can often be evocatively misty or diffuse, with sunlight filtering through cloud. More examples of species that look spectacular in a winter garden are Luma apiculata and Rhamnus ‘Fine Line’, which produces a beautiful winter fruit. The brilliant red trunks of certain species look spectacular against the grays of the colder season and next to the neutral mulch covered ground. For example Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’ and Drimys lanceolata.
The Fascinating Structure of a Winter Garden
This winter garden is particularly successful, not just because it yields endless variations of beautiful color, but because of its powerful structure. This is an area that has been constructed artistically with a focus on combining plants of differing heights, volumes, textures, line and pattern. All formal elements have been organized to interact and compliment one another, much as an artist or architect manipulates materials to achieve a cohesive whole. This is not just a random collection of evergreen plants, all species have been selected for specific details and how these will look in isolation or as part of a group.
To continue the interest through to covered areas and patios, sculptural plant holders have become the home to a myriad of small succulent plants. These look fantastic all year round and need minimal care, The variations in textures, colors, shapes and forms of these delightful succulents echoes the visual and tactile interest in the larger winter garden.
Maybe you prefer your garden to ‘shut down’ in winter. If not, you could you keep it alive by following a similar approach to planting, that will give you pleasure all year long.
Photos by: Jan LeCocq
Text by Jaz