A couple years ago I wrote the following article for FLOWER magazine, Winter Wonderland, ever since then I have continued to photograph gardens in winter wherever I go. There is something very clarifying, illuminating and Zen about this grey skeletal vision. We are on the cusp of that season. At the same time, we find ourselves preparing for the holidays, seeking greens of all kinds like pine, juniper, cedar and more to decorate our homes, inside and out. I have been working on my scheme for this Christmas but thought I would share how we decorated our New York garden and pergola last year. While I wanted green, I also wanted texture, and birch bark was my answer. With the help of everyone at ZEZE flowers columns were wrapped, a wreath was made and a winter garden pavilion created. C’EST INSPIRE shows you their process.
So stand by, and watch @charmossny in 2018 to see what Christmas brings.
Fa la la,
FLOWER – November/December 2014
While a garden at its summer peak is a rainbow of undulating waves of color, perfumed air and birds singing, the result can be a cacophony of sensual chaos. Beautiful, voluptuous, and abundant, a garden in summer is to be enjoyed, lingered in, and bragged about. Winter, on the other hand, is a chance to have a conversation with your garden, like sitting in silence with a good friend who understands the importance of moments like this. Time to muse, wander, wonder and delight in this season of a garden is to experience it on a more cerebral level. Like trying to write a story around an outline you are given, winter is the season that requires our patience, and fills us with promises and possibilities. Like a silent walk in the woods, the opportunity to experience its dreamy poetry is like having a conversation uninterrupted.
Reduced to a skeletal state, a garden in winter gives your imagination an opportunity to explore those possibilities. It allows your eyes the chance to be a paintbrush devising new color schemes and filling in borders. On the other hand you may choose to simply enjoy the bones of the pleached hedge, the peeling bark of the crape myrtle remnants of bittersweet and viburnum berries. Early morning walks reveal piles of oak leaves silver plated with frost and holly trees standing boastful and defiant in a blaze of color.
When I travel in winter, I still want to see any garden on my route. I feel informed by it in a different kind of way, more understanding, more attached. Perhaps they are just like people who have let their guard down. I know when I return, I will be seeing the other side of its personality.
A garden in winter is like a perfect black and white photo, an old movie, an x-ray. Every nuanced shade of grey is awakened in a season otherwise viewed as colorless, when all growth is stalled. But look again and color schemes are begging to be noticed. The herbaceaous border left to stand, now in shades of blonde and silver grey are standing in contrast to the old yews making for a dramatic scene. While branches of various cornus are a rainbow of reds fading to yellow, the stark white bodies of birch trees make their own ghostly statement. The omnipresent, limitless and ever faithful sky, a constant in every garden, is a canopy of blue that just like a Matisse cutout silhouettes shapely trees and the leafless framework of others. White fences and black iron gates add patterns and outlines that draw the eye in a more focused way. The trellises and arbors now naked give us graphic art in winter with their shapes and patterns.
Just like a well decorated room, the garden also relies on its furniture and accessories. Benches of any kind still dutifully beckon us to come, sit, enjoy the view and contemplate the current state of affairs. Statues, urns and other ornaments will knowingly and patiently look forward to being enveloped in green once again, but for now, they are the show. Pots, troughs, and planters, small and large, now empty, will dream of the return of summer’s abundance.
The dormant state of a garden in winter, metaphorically speaks to what gardening is all about; a process. The cycle of life, death, and rebirth is the story of any garden, ever changing. Winter is the great equalizer, whether a front yard bed or acres of them.
We pine for those tiny sprouts, those early chartreuse buds and leaves. They give us hope and like a trumpet announce that the flower fashion show of spring will soon begin. We feel reborn as our senses emerge from hibernation, a protracted holding pattern. We are like school children who have just heard the last bell of the year. Ahh, for without winter we would not know these joys.