As I’m writing this, it’s lashing with rain, the wind is thrashing my black bamboos against the window and it’s not exactly warm, so why, you might ask, is this a season to enjoy?
I realised a while back that while we all think spring and summer are lovely, there are just as many summer days when it’s lashing with rain, horribly windy and not exactly warm, so there is no good reason not to enjoy the winter as much as the summer.
I’ve never held with the idea of ‘putting the garden to bed’ for the winter. Without the distraction of flowers, this is a great time to enjoy the structure of a garden, especially when that structure has been designed to take advantage of the dual lights of winter – the very soft light, where greens are nearer to yellows, as in the photos above and below, and the very harsh light, when the very low angle of the light brings a cool clarity and contrast not seen at other times of year.
The more gardens I design, the more I have come to value the use of natural features to create divisions and frames within a garden; hedges, trees, water and grasses give great structure throughout the year, but they also allow for contrasts of mass (solid yew hedges, or even just a backdrop of dark tree trunks as in this photo above) against the airy movement of grasses whose flowers persist through the winter, like this Stipa tenuissima below.
And just look at the patterns!
And what a great contrast below; the softness of the light on the background trees, and the intensity of the light bringing out the colour of this Salix alba at Stourhead – an effect doubled with the reflection in the water.
In fact, the more I think about what it is that I like about winter, the more I realise that it’s all about the light – whether soft or harsh, whether it’s muting or accentuating the colours. I believe a manipulation of natural light in all seasons adds a dimension to our enjoyment of and experience within a garden, or indeed any outdoor space, the importance of which isn’t recognised as widely as it should be. In an age where so many of us are stressed, tired, over-worked and generally unhappy, how much does something as simple as this sunset, below, lift the spirits?