The Winter Garden: From Inside Out

It stands to reason that the winter landscape should provide interesting views from indoors.  Even if you are a dedicated a snow boarder, snow shoe-er, skier, snow man builder, or dog walker, there are those winter days that keep everyone wanting to be indoors. The landscape view out the windows needs to be a view well worth looking at. Why so? The winter season in northern climates is enough to threaten to separate a gardener from their garden. I am not going there. Any view is a welcome view. Even out the windows, in the dead of winter. A case in point: The overnight low last night was 19 degrees. Yesterday’s high temperature was 23 degrees. The temperature this morning on the way to work – just 13 degrees. Really cold. This is close to the borderline of stay inside weather for me. Unless there is some compelling reason to layer up and go out, looking out the windows is an exercise I relish, and depend on. Walking the perimeter of my house to look out the windows is a daily walk. I have no intention of abandoning the landscape in the winter.  This gardener is not on hiatus. The experience of it is just different now. This picture was taken through the glass in Buck’s morning room at 4:45 am. He gets up really early, and reads. Soon after, I come by to say good morning.  Then I look out the window. This was the scene out the window yesterday morning. The structure of the palabin lilac on standard was outlined with our overnight sticky snow.  The boxwood hedge has a modest snow hat. The cut tree in my side yard pot is wreathed in lights.  Though the holiday season ended a month ago, I love the light. It illuminates the entire garden all winter long. That light is a good idea, considering that it is dark by 6pm, and the night is just beginning to lift after 7am.  This look out Buck’s window the beginning of February looks good to me.

In the fall, I made plans to enjoy my winter view at the end of my driveway. I go to work every day, so no matter the temperature, this is my one written in stone daily foray outdoors. I do not have a view of my driveway pots from indoors. But I am here on my driveway every day, even in the winter. I filled the pots for winter. The lights in the greens are not so prominent during the day.  But they will come to the fore come nightfall.

The landscape portion of this view depends greatly on the change of grade, the steps, the fence, and the gates. Late last fall, Buck and his group built an arbor that arches over the approach the staircase to the gates. He removed the indented fence panels, and built the arbor on top of them. The winter view is better now. My pots have company of the architectural sort. We had many a conversation during the fall about whether to plant or not plant this arbor. Buck is an architect and fabricator, so he favors the arbor unsullied by vines.  I am a plant person, so of course I have been thinking about what might compliment and grow well on this arbor. The winter is a great time to be thinking about any changes or additions to a landscape. This conversation is ongoing. If you can be visually seduced by your winter landscape, you have done a terrific job with the design.

Some windows feature multiple views. The right view out of my bedroom window features the woody structure of the Princeton Gold maples, the yews weeping from a wet snow load, and a garden bench placed in close proximity to a life size moss sculpture of a cow. Lady Miss Bunny has spent 16 years in the garden, and looks good every season of the year.

The view out the French doors of our office to the far left of the bedroom window is notable for its strong mid ground presence. The iron fence you see now is the same iron fence you would see in all the other seasons. But the beauty of the winter view has everything to do with the winter weather.

The view straight out the bedroom window is organized by the fountain. Though it is one of the great pleasures of my gardening season to see and hear this fountain running, it holds its own in the winter. The landscape here is not complex. Maples and yews. The fountain surround and grass is blanketed with snow. They are the star of the show in the summer. It is the fountain and ornament that provide winter interest to this portion of the landscape.

The view out my front door is organized by the walk to the street. The boxwood is a snow covered mass that responds to and counters that walk in the horizontal plane. The landscape lights and the winter lights in the pots punctuate the view. Landscape lighting can transform a winter landscape.  Try it.

The side view out the dining room window features a lit container in the foreground.  A lit pot facing the street in the mid ground.  And a streetlight in the far ground. Once you add the structure of the boxwood, yews, the remains of the flowers on the hydrangeas, and the towering structure of the street trees, this view has a lot going for it. Depth, texture, and volume.  I can see all of this, out the window.

Landscape lighting adds so much warmth to the winter landscape. Of course I come home at the end of the day through the back door. But my view out the front door early in the morning assures me that my landscape is welcoming in the winter. For those of you who would protest about another round of night pictures, be advised that my experience of the landscape in winter is ruled by the gray, and the dark. And this view, from inside out.

I do have to go outside at the end of the day with the corgis. While they are sniffing around and running through the yard, I have a chance to see what my landscape has going on from my upper deck. The view down to the driveway is a warm one.
















  1. A beautiful winter wonderland!

  2. I’d enjoy walking my dog past your home. Enjoyment of Christmas lights long after the season has passed oughta Year round Christmas lights oughts become a mandatory hoa rule, not a fined exception. Keep ’em coming through all of the seasons. Light lovers unite!

  3. Seems I need some editorial assistance. mulligan please: I’d get a lot of enjoyment on my nightly dog walk past your house. Christmas lights rock yearound. I’m putting my strands back up tomorrow..

  4. Just lovely…

  5. Jen Moneagle says

    Oh you make me long for snow!! (But not the bitter cold). Love this post

  6. Enchanting! Lovely! Magical! Thank you!

  7. Indeed – what a difference the lighting makes. Your gardens and pots are so beautiful, even in the dead of winter! I’m so inspired by your ideas!

  8. “In the days of the frost, seek a minor sun.”
    Loren Eisely, The Star Thrower
    Your little tree wreathed in lights, is certainly a minor sun!
    Thank you for warming this cold day in Boston with your superb post.

  9. Deborah Silver says

    Dear Kate, thank you for passing along this gem from Loren Eisley. Another thanks for your kind post. all the best, Deborah

  10. Deborah Silver says

    Dear Karen, loved your letters!I keep my lights up until that moment when it is just too embarrassing to keep them going. Usually March. One year I let them go until April Fools Day-ha! best, Deborah

  11. Arlene Gamble says

    Do you use LED bulbs and what size for your lighting? Looks fantastic!!
    I have visited your business and went on garden tours – so blessed for your talents.

  12. Deborah Silver says

    I use light strands with LED bulbs. They come in different lengths. I think the 111 foot long strand has 1500 lights. best, Deborah

  13. diane plocek says

    Simply Lovely!

  14. Deborah, I treasure your blog. Tonight it provided me with respite from too much politics and too much PBS (American Experience on the Oklahoma City bombing followed by Independent Lens on the birth of the NAACP, in part, as a protest against D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,”) Our history is not always pretty.

    I chose to look at several months of your posts as a way to keep my liberal head from exploding and it worked! Your vision, commitment and industry, your clear delineation between what works for your clients and what works for your home helped me regain persepctive. I’ll still keep up with current politics and continue to learn our history but I can also focus on what I will do in my own tiny but beloved garden. That, and a small piece of chocolate, will get me to sleep tonight. Thanks you.

  15. Jean Calaci says

    I’m reading this in a New Hampshire snowstorm. You are such an inspiration! This is such a good prism to see the world through! Thank you.

  16. Dear Deborah, I followed a beautiful picture posted on pinterest back to your blog. You had me at nicotiana! I have many varieties coming from Chiltern seeds in the U.K. Your new BFF from the other side of the state.

  17. Deborah Silver says

    Dear Aleta, I do indeed love every species and hybrid of nicotiana. They are my favorite. I hope all of your seeds germinate, and that you are able to grow them up. all the best to you, Deborah

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