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Home & Garden

The winter garden


s I write this, a midwinter storm swirls around the house. Blowing snow piles up in drifts, filling in places I had just cleared hours before. Snow in depth is the saviour of a great many plants in the Saskatchewan garden. Under a cold blanket, the perennials and delicate shrubs like roses are insulated from the -20oC that is bound to sink in after a blizzard. The winter garden is a white slate on which the stark arms of trees reach out across the lawn and fat evergreens sit plump in clusters in the borders of my garden. I design the garden with this winter wonderland in mind – the tree’s structure standing strong against the winds from the north. My Amur Maple was placed as a sentinel at the back gate, a small maple planted for its fall colour. The maple’s leaves are small and serrated; they blow away in the fall with little or no cleanup. The seeds hang in small brown clusters and sound like rattles with the gentlest of breezes. I planted a tree form of the Amur maple to get “tall legs” so that I could prune it high and pass without hindrance through the back gate. I have limited space in my garden, but one tree I would love to plant, if I had the space,

By Janet Wanner

is the European Mountain Ash. Now here is a tree for all seasons! Creamy spring panicles, great summer shade, spectacular fall colour and red berries for waxwings in February. Just think of that bright berry mounded with the pure white snow on each cluster!

Just think of that bright berry mounded with pure white snow on each cluster! What would the winter garden be without evergreens? I am always impressed with a well-grown cedar or upright juniper. My gold junipers glow in the low winter light and the globe blue spruce is a great compliment, standing with its cap of snow. I use globe blue spruce as anchors to a bed. One of them can be planted to become the focal point at the front door. The globe blue would complement any other plant from hostas to dianthus and grasses. The textural contrast of the plants is what creates an exciting combination. The spiny blue branches mingled with the fat leaf lime green hosta accented with red flowering dianthus – there you have a “look”. The whole combination is drought-resistant once

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Its height is very similar to a full-grown cedar but it has a wonderful blue grey colour. I believe that the most magical time in the winter garden is when Mother Nature provides a lacy coating of hoar frost on everything from the trees to the shrubs and the fence line. The garden really becomes worthy of a picture or two. Shadows and stark lines can create the most beautiful pictures, even for the amateur photographer. Janet Wanner is co-owner of Gentle Earth Design Studios. She can be contacted at 3438594.

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they are older. Right now, the snow is ravishing the branches of the evergreens and weighing them down to droopy skirts. A good broom and a little work will fix that and the branches will pop up when released from their snowy prison. The weight of the snow will deform the shape of any plant and even break many branches, very quickly. Cedars and upright junipers grow full and round in good sunlight and provided with a weekly deep watering will do yeoman’s service for many years. My giant mugo pine (sold as a mini 35 years ago) is a shelter for all the tiny birds that come to our place. It acts like a great spruce without the great height. The mugo outside my front room window becomes even more beautiful with snow sifting through its branches. The little mini mugos like Mops and Gnom are great rock garden items and do very well in a Japanese design. Pine is an essential element for a Japanese garden, as it represents longevity. For the lover of the Colorado Blue spruce, there is a new columnar form for the corner of the garden. It grows slowly to about 16’, which is quite manageable in most gardens.

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