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The rewards of winter gardening

In many regions, winter isn't a dead time in the garden. This gardener sees many joys and rewards in the winter garden.

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This evergreen Chinese holly, Ilex cornuta D'Or, has bright yellow berries that stand out in the winter garden.

Courtesy of Helen Yoest

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[Editor's note: March weather is hard to predict. In some places in the US today, it's snowing and sleeting. In others, it's sunny and temperatures are in the 70s. But whatever it's like where you live, it's a good time to look back on the winter gardening experience, as Helen Yoest does, and see its rewards.]

The sun is low on most winter days, but my hopes are high. When I walk my garden during the winter, I hope to find solace in nature. As I look around, the trees, void of leaves, show me structure and strength. They make me feel stronger with every step I take.

Color from the bark, mottled or brightened in its winter hue, intrigues me. I can stare at it in wonder; something that would never occur in the summer when there is a riot of colorful stimuli.

Color in the winter garden

The white trunk of the sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), the red-colored new growth of the coral bark maple (Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku’), and the overlapping of browns, tans, and grays found on the main stem of the crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia i.x fauriei 'Natchez') are just a few winter barks that add excitement in my winter garden.

Evergreen foliage is a misnomer when the green of summer turns yellow in the winter for certain pine trees. ‘Wate’s Golden Pine’  (Pinus virginiana) and  the Eastern white pine, ‘Hillside Winter Gold’ (Pinus strobus) at first had me fearful of distress until  I remembered this is their winter tone, and it was the reason why I added them to Helen’s Haven.

As I move on through the garden, I hope to find the sweet scent of flowers. I’ve been known to be boastful about my winter buds. I’m rather evangelical about winter gardening. I  like to catch people off guard by showing them flowers in bloom. There are mahonia [see second photo above; click on the arrow at the right base of the first photo], daffodil, camellia, and hellebores flowering in my fourth season. There are snowdrops, flowering apricot, crocus, and the cornflower-colored rosemary flowers. There are winter flowering iris such as the Iris unguicularis, aconite, and the sweet smell of Chimonanthus praecox (known simply as the fragrant wintersweet).

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