Saturday, 9 January 2010

Best in snow

It very much puts the kybosh on gardening all this snow. I have sorted out my tin of seed packets (they're all neatly labelled now), thought about which new veg I want to try this summer at the allotment and organised all the back issues of my gardening magazines in newly-assembled ikea shelves (in a mildly obsessive compulsive fashion). In the garden, I've brushed what snow I can off more vulnerable plants, but am resigning myself to some severe losses come spring (I'm secretly okay with this as it will be chance for a bit of a reshuffle and an opportunity to try new plants).
But now what? Those last late bulbs will not get planted. So I must simply settle down and wait for spring and just enjoy the narnia landscape while it lasts.
Walking through and past snowladen parks and gardens has made me think about one of the tenets of good garden design - all year interest. The rulebooks advise on lots of good evergreen structure - yew hedges, box balls, topiary, and any other shrubs with a strong form and good foliage. Then there are the spent grasses and seedheads that look ethereally fragile but stunning.  Add to this coloured barks, berries and winter scent and you've ticked all the boxes for the successful winter garden.
But few of the design books have a chapter on designing gardens for snow. Is this even possible?  Even stalwart evergreens can't compete with the blanketing of white stuff that we've had this week. No, this is where trees come into their own. Big handsome plane trees on the streets and in parks, copper beeches, chestnuts and oaks. It's as if those giant silhouettes of leafless branches were always meant to be seen against an icy white backdrop. And I love the dusting of snow that just catches on the topsides of branches. They are the perfect foil for the snow garden. So, my advice on designing for winter is to find a big space and plant trees. Very big trees.
It may be quite far removed from Ansel Adams at Yosemite, but snowy Gunnersbury Park  looked quite magical, even with the peaks of the M4's highrise blocks in the distance

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