Cold climates

Cold climates

Defined seasons, cold winters, dormant periods for many plants are some of the characteristics of cold climate gardens. Personally, I love these characteristics though I understand that some people can’t deal with cold winters and are naturally drawn northwards to hotter zones. 

Shedding your leaves and having a break over winter, as many trees and shrubs of colder areas do, makes perfect sense. I think psychologically your brain coincides with nature so that in winter you experience ‘downtime’ too.

‘Tobermory’, a garden I designed 15 years ago in Moss Vale on 5 acres, contains about 15 garden rooms, and all these are defined and separated by Leighton Green hedges which form the bones of the garden. The garden is not fussy and relies on the one species of hedge throughout the garden to coordinate the entire garden. The rooms contain different themes, and each room is scattered with a different species of tree. For example, in a formal room a straight line of Snow Pears define the area; 4 variegated Elms form a graceful canopy over the outdoor entertaining area; scattered groves of Birch soften the house and line part of the drive; Chinese Weeping Elms and Claret Ash surround a lake in the front garden; and another formal room is marked by an alley Golden Ash drawing the eye to a fountain.

To walk around this simple yet majestic garden in winter is one of my favourite winter past times, which I still do to this day. The skeleton like form of the trees is enhanced by the backdrop of the Leighton Greens forming compartments, and a dramatic evergreen contrast. In winter the structure of the garden bones become all the more clearer, and for a garden that strongly relies on its simple yet strong lines, this is important. The great thing about walking around this garden in winter is that afterwards you can go inside and warm up by the open fire with a glass of Shiraz!

Just as plants from warmer climates need to tolerate the heat, plants adapted to colder zones need to tolerate not just the summer heat but also the chill and frost of winter. When selecting your plants, ensure your plants are cold hardy as many plants that we buy in the warmer months we assume will do well in colder areas, die during the winter.

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