Ph. by Luigi Fieni
Winter is coming and …
how will your gardens look like in the cold season?
Were you far-sighted?
Did you plan to colour them with berries, fruits, stems and barks?
If not, it is time to think about the future of your gardens, so that you can live and appreciate them throughout the year.
The dawn of the winter garden
To discover the origins of the term winter garden, although with a different meaning from the current one, it is necessary to go back in time.
The first structures related to the winter gardens were created in northern Europe around the 16th century, as a consequence of the need to cultivate and protect citrus fruits from the cold.
Through the 17th and the 18th century, we get to the England of the early 19th century: the Victorian era is in fact the golden age of the large glass buildings intended for entertainment, dance and music, which over time turned into exotic greenhouses.
Later, after the Second World War, the huge and therefore unsustainable maintenance expenses, caused their almost total disappearance.
The winter garden for the gardener
“In winter, it is very tempting to seat next to a nice fireplace. Rain, humidity, cold, (…) do not encourage us to put on our boots and go out. But at this time of year, frost and snow are not the only magic wands you can count on to make your garden beautiful. The gardener has no longer to resign himself to waiting for the first majestic spring blooms (…). The palette of winter plants is so generous that, if the choice of the species has been carefully pondered, in this season the garden can turn into a fantastic sequence of bright colours and subtle fragrances”.
The stems of willows and dogwoods, the branches of birches, the foliage of large or dwarf conifers, the grasses, the dry inflorescences of Sedum, … You’ll be spoilt for choice.
The play of bark and stems
Who are the architects of liveliness in a winter garden? Here are a few ideas among the countless colour combinations, the surfaces, the graphics and the shapes of trunks and stems.
In autumn, the dogwood trees (such as Cornus alba ‘Westonbirt’) feature a reddish-pink foliage that in winter leaves the scene to “flaming” stems, thus lighting up the landscape.
And the play of contrasts between the barks? The violet blue elegance of Acer negundo var. violaceum stands out on the bright orange of Cornus sanguinea “Winter Flame”, and the material and chalky trunks of the beautiful and rare Betula ‘Fetisowii’ contrast with the bright mahogany colour of the branches of Prunus serrula.
Berries and small fruits
It is obvious: they are the jewels of the garden. On the stems and bare branches or among the glossy or variegated leaves of the evergreen plants, their chromatic effect is spectacular.
The ornamental berries are perfect: from the red ones of Malus ‘Red Jewel’ to the golden ones of Melia azendarach, they give fruits during the whole winter.
From the lilac of Callicarpa dichotona to the scarlet of Rosa ‘Splendens’, passing from the white of Skimmia japonica ‘Wakehurst White’, the berries are real pearls, which make the arrival of cold in the garden desirable and colour it.
In short, we are only at the beginning of a very long journey …
“Giardini d’inverno” by Cedric Pollet (L’ippocampo, 2017)