Is winter ugly?

I read this article in the Guardian the other day called 'What's wrong with an ugly winter garden?' by Lucy Masters, an article that spoke very much to my gardening inner-self.  Except I do not berate myself for having an ugly winter garden as I refute the term 'ugly', untidy maybe, but not ugly.  I love my garden in every season and winter is no different.
Yes winter is hard, the sky is often grey and this year it has been rain, wind, storm, rain, storm, rain, wind, rain, rain - well, you get the picture.  The weather has been miserable, which it usually is in winter, but its been constant rainy miserable rather than snow-ice miserable.
I have mentioned in previous posts that I am not a fan of evergreens and this is indeed the case.  I do have some, I am not an evergreen free-zone but they are not top on my list of must-have plants.  Yet  I look around my garden and it has colour and indeed, quite a bit of green.
There are some flowers, the hellebores are just coming into flower,
and probably due to the lack of snow and ice there are even some daisies in the lawn.  I encourage daisies in the lawn, a lawn without daisies is, well, grass really without daisies, a bit too mono-culture for me.
The article quotes James Golden where he talks of a garden  "One that evokes and looks seriously at decay and death ..." now I would not say that I am looking to evoke decay and death in my garden, I can be a bit dark at times but that is dark even for me.  I do though like the change from autumn to winter, the dying down and the feeling that the garden is going to sleep.  There is a beauty in this death and also life for the wildlife as it is often a great source of food.
Spring is about awakening, the colour and life returning.  I do have some colour in the garden, there are the Hamamelis which are a joy this time of year.   This Hamamelis Jelena is by the pond, you can see the orange fuzz if you squint at the picture enough, it is still quite young so each year the display gets that little bit more.  I like this glimpse of colour as to me it has more impact that if there was constant colour this time of year.
Without the pause for winter there would be little point in a spring border, this scratty muddy bit is my spring border.  It will look better in a few weeks, promise.
I would not get so excited about life returning if I did not allow the garden to have winter.  This wonderful green flush of an oriental poppy brings with it great promise.  Well, hopefully anyway as it might still get snowed on, there is still time.
The small points of colour that continue through the winter are highly prized.  This Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' must be one the longest lasting flowering plants I have.
and counting the furry paw-buds on the Magnolia stellata is counting how much happiness it will bring when they flower.
This however, is a highly prized evergreen, this is Illicium simonsii, bought from Crûg Farm Nursery last year.  It was a total impulse buy but I love it.  It flowered well and so far is looking hardy as hardy though it is purposely in quite a sheltered spot.
and I love the Illicium, I really do, but this time of year the blossom on the winter flowering cherry probably brings me more happiness.

I do not see my garden as ugly this time of year, muddy yes, ugly not really.  In order to appreciate the life in it I am happy to see the death, as it is not really death but a pause, a moment of waiting before spring returns.  It is no surprise that I have already written about Persephone previously is it?

On the day I sat down to write this a box of dahlias and crocosmia arrived, its like a carnival of summer in a box, the winter pause makes this thought of colour even more welcome.  If it was constant carnival the carnival would not be so welcome.  Like Lucy I embrace the 'ugliness' of the garden this time of year.  Suddenly I am reminded of the song of the ugly duckling......


  1. I like your furry paws, but I like your Illicium simonsii, more. I regard winter as a necessary evil we have to get through In order to have summer.

  2. There's a lot of beauty in bare branches, seedheads and brown leaves left lying on the borders. Bright colours at this time of year just don't seem right.

  3. That reminds me....I haven't chopped down the old stems on my oriental poppy!

  4. I like think that the garden is dreaming in winter. In fact, you´re right. The garden is not really death. It´s a pause before spring returns.

  5. One has to adjust their standard of 'beauty' depending on the season, and has to appreciate beauty in winter too. Otherwise it's going to be a totally miserable season which shouldn't be the case :)

  6. No, winter is certainly not ugly, but you must have an eye for the beautiful things to discover in the garden and nature generally.

  7. One of of the thIocimate is the variation the season bring. I do like to have evergreens in my garden, but not so many that it becomes static. I really like the comparative bareness of the winter garden, the silhouettes of bare trees and seedheads. I like the fact that most winter flowering plants have quite subtle and delicate flowers, and I ratehr dislike the brightly coloured primroses you get, I don't actually want anything brightly coloured at this time of year, in fact I don't even really want daffodils blooming until March! So no, winter is not ugly, just wonderfully different.

  8. Not ugly, just different. There is still beauty in a winter garden, you just have to look a bit harder to find it!

  9. Lovely images, and writing. I'm a great fan of the winter garden, too. And I agree, Bowles Mauve is amazing - I've had some that flowered for 12 months, all winter long (though they did keel over after a couple of years, I've read that they don't live that long...worn out, I should imagine!)


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