Not to beat Elizabeth’s dead horse, but I am still pondering winter interest — and not just in dazzling snow-covered landscapes that most of us couldn’t reproduce in our own yards, though I am truly delighted for those of you who live near one or have made one (see Linda’s garden for some real inspiration).

The thing is, though it can be very satisfying to explore parks, well-designed gardens, and natural areas, there is something special and important about that personal connection between a gardener and his/her own garden. I still remember how much I missed my garden on those Minnesota winter days when I couldn’t go outdoors.


With only this much “winter interest,” my first garden in Saint Paul enticed me outdoors.

I once visited a B&B someplace in Wisconsin during the winter. There was no snow as I recall, just a general grayness from thick cloud cover, and drab brown ground. But when I stepped into the breakfast room and took a seat by the window, I felt my spirits lifting. A giant old magnolia spread its leafless branches across the glass, and the swelling furry buds were a constant and powerful reminder that spring was coming. Throughout my meal, I gazed at them and drank in their message of hope and anticipation. It filled me, more than the actual food. It fed my soul.

That is how I want to live. All year long, not just when flowers are blooming. And because of such experiences, because other people (probably long gone, in the case of the person who planted that magnolia) had the vision to orchestrate such experiences and create the magical places in which others can continue to have them, I know it is possible.


I wish I’d taken a photo of that magical breakfast room. Here is a much younger magnolia starting to bloom.

I’m not suggesting that we all strive to have a colorful and lively landscape during winter, even if we live in a colder climate. But I am strongly suggesting that it might be possible to feed your soul every day, in your own yard, even in winter (or whatever season people tend to spend indoors in your locale).

It might not be a magnolia for you. It might be a cardinal on a cranberrybush viburnum, or the scent of a conifer wafting indoors on the cold air, or the moonshadow cast by a bare-branched maple tree, or seedheads frosted into silvery sculptures.

In every season, gardeners need hope and life and little tastes of nature — and, I would argue, time spent in a garden, preferably our own — to endure gracefully.