View Finder

IMG_3000It has been a challenging winter. Even though spring is a mere two weeks away, it will be a while before the deep snow has melted and fresh earth will emerge in sight. At this point, staring at the white expanse has become tiresome – is there anything living underneath? I’ve certainly been doing my share of staring.

Given our severe winters, the landscape is prone to being inundated by snow. While one may read about resisting cutting back plants such as ornamental grasses and other perennials in the autumn and keeping them to adorn the winter scenery as well as provide food for the birds, the reality is that they will be buried quite early by snow. Nothing will be visible enough to serve any purpose. Come spring, there will be the unpleasant chore of clearing the sodden mess.

Instead, I’ve found that the hardscaping and trees play a prominent part in relieving the monotonous white of winter. Different elements can be incorporated to give depth, interest and visual texture in the garden. Now is the right time to consider what we can add – treat the snow like a blank canvas!

In general, these elements are important through all the seasons but I’m going to focus on some points just for this snow burdened season. So we can feel that much more excited about the scenery.

Boundaries can be well used to make a winter-scape alive with pattern and shapes. Depending on the height and material used, snow will reveal new designs and direct our eyes to look at the familiar in a new way. Ironwork seems obvious – the curls and swirls will work nicely against the snow. But even humble wooden fences can rise to the occasion. Hedges take on unique organic shapes that imitate mounds and bluffs under thick coverings of snow. Undulating forms present artful chiaroscuro.If you can, consider your boundaries – while they are meant to contain and limit, they can have other expansive uses.

If one is fortunate to have a pond or stream on the property, then the feature guarantees an escape from monotony. Reflections on the water, visiting wildlife, icy sculptures formed by the wind on the water and the sounds of water freezing and thawing all contribute to making such an ecosystem a world unto its own. To enjoy them in winter, make sure they are visible from the house and somewhat accessible to walk to even if one needs to wear snowshoes. A stroll to the water can be a part of a mindful, meditative practice. A quick getaway from the busyness of our days.

There are many choices of trees and shrubs that provide year round interest. Their shapes, the colors and patterns of bark, deciduous or evergreen, are all factors to take into account. When planting in spring or fall, factor in how you’d like to enjoy the view in winter and situate them accordingly. It will upgrade your cold season vista.

Gates and railings also enhance the snow-scape. From ornate designs traced by the snow to more modern shapes, these seemingly dismissive elements can add just the right flourish.

Sunlight, whilst not particularly in ones power to regulate, casts stunning shadows and designs on the snow. A humdrum expanse can be transformed to stunning by sunshine. Take this into your plans when installing any of the elements mentioned above. The contrast of dark shapes and shadows against the pristine white is pure drama.

Finally, something as simple as a bird-feeder or two will bring to life any garden. The avian activity will entertain as much as they will add beauty whilst serving the birds much needed sustenance. Boring will be a forgotten word.

We cannot predict if this winter is a sign for future winters to come but, at least we can be creative about how we cope no matter what. With grace, beauty and forethought.
(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

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2 thoughts on “View Finder

  1. Lovely column. And good idea to think ahead to next winter, although I confess that I am fixated on our desperately awaited spring.
    My bird feeder was a sanity saver over the last month or so. Watching the birds – especially the cardinals against all that whiteness – was a great relief from the tundra.

  2. I agree with Julie. The bird feeders were so popular this winter. I filled them almost daily. One day, we had 8 cardinals at the feeder at one time. Woodpeckers we also frequent visitors.

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