Garden Library- The Garden in Winter

I am a fan of the winter garden. The winter garden is inspiring with the way its beauty is understated. The winter garden relies on the bones, the structure of the garden to create its beauty. A winter garden is very much, what-you-see-is-what-you-get. And when a garden is designed right, you get a lot of spectacular! If you don’t believe me, perhaps an afternoon with The Garden in Winter by Suzy Bales will have you a believer.

The first lines of the book had me hooked.

“And just for the record, T.S. Elliot got it wrong. January is the cruelest month- dark days amid bone-chilling cold. By April the delights of spring are galloping along. Then spring leapfrogs into summer. Summer cartwheels into fall. Fall, after a blaze of glory, collapse in a heap on home plate. Once fall fizzles out, the trees are denuded, the garden’s bones are bare, and the lost vistas are regained. Winter, the honest season, stands up naked, hiding nothing! Any plant left standing, bare or dressed, is an unsung hero.”

The Garden in Winter is part photo essay, part garden instruction and part personal reflection. Suzy writes as if she is talking with a close friend over coffee on the porch or strolling about her garden. Suzy’s voice, her words, still echo in my mind; a calm, inspiring voice reminding me to embrace the winter garden and to look carefully at what it has to teach me.

“On snowy mornings as I look out from my bedroom window, the beauty of the winter garden always takes me by surprise. The palette is a chiaroscuro of black, white, and gray-a glorious pen and ink drawing.”

Spend enough time with this book and it will seduce you and make you wish for fresh snow so you can explore and evaluate your own garden’s winter interest.

“A winter garden is about possibilities, the relationship you develop with Mother Nature, and the secrets she reveals to you about your garden.”

The Garden in Winter Plant for Beauty and Interest in the Quiet Season
By Suzy Bales


  1. Wow ... you got me hooked! I will need to get this and have it at the ready each November/December when I start to get depressed.

  2. She makes a great point -- why design a garden for three seasons? We want great gardens all year round. I think a lot of the grasses you plant must look good in the winter landscape.

  3. I'm just not that into winter gardening. I don't even think there is such a thing. But enough glory is written about it to make you want to have a winter garden. I see one purpose for winter - for those plants that need a dormant period. Of course I realize that it must come and go, but it sure gets harder to take as each year passes. I think I'll write a book about it: "Winter Gardening Isn't All That."

  4. thewritegardener- you sound like you have had enough of winter!! I can relate.
    The Garden in Winter book as well as my ideas about the winter garden is not so much about gardening in winter -pretty hard to do with snow and ice unless you have a green house- but rather creating gardens that when the snow does fall, you still have something nice to look at. Nothing is sadder than a perennial bed, cut back to the ground with nothing but soil or mulch to look at. Trees and shrubs with exciting forms are great to look at in the winter- the best time to enjoy them when the leaves are down and that form is revealed. Planting bulbs that bloom very early- like snow drops, are just what you need to get you through the last days of winter. Their cheery heads popping up through the snow is a delight to behold!
    Hang in there- the get-your-hands-dirty-in-the-garden-season is almost here.

  5. This subject is true even if you're sick of winter. A snow covered garden is an opportunity to see the structure or lack of structure in your gsrden. If you can embrace it you can find an opportunity to improve your garden for the other three seasons.