A Trip to Paradise Garden

When an already amazing winter garden is blanketed in snow . . .

. . . grab your coat, your camera. Hurry up! Go!   ( Here, nearly silent runners duck and swerve to avoid the snow-laden branches as the heavy flakes keep falling.)

Don’t wait for blue skies, though if they show, rejoice . . . (A pungent witch-hazel, in full fragrant bloom, bedecked with a heavy coat of snow.)

For even a hint of sunshine will change the visual landscape dramatically, adding even more color and contrast to the mix.

This stunning and very large Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ literally glows within a small, momentary patch of sunlight.

There are wonders on a snow day, quite different from the rain. (Winter-blooming Camelia blossoms are accented by the darker leaf tops and lighter leaf bottoms, and, of course, a heavy dusting of snow.)

Some blooms may appear in an entirely new light against a background of white. (This Mahonia reaches upward perhaps ten feet beneath an immense cedar and its blooms, a prized source of hummingbird food, are much more visible against the bright snowy background than against shadowy, dark foliage on a snowless day. )

Small details take on new importance as one moves in close, even while still marveling at the larger snowy scene that drew you toward them in the first place.

For me it is that contrast, taking in the beauty of a larger, more pastoral scene and then turning to discover some small wonder on a shrub, not three feet behind me. ( Below: Garrya, aka, Silk Tassel Bush)

An early blooming rhododendron, radiant within a heavy blanket of white, serves as a woodland beacon against a backdrop of greys (below).

Seattle has a most amazing winter garden that many describe as a complete transformative experience once they’ve visited it. I have walked its winter-fragrant paths many, many times over the years, on rainy days and cold sunny days, and never, ever have I left, disappointed for the time spent getting there or being there, regardless of the weather. This past week, however, was something altogether different. This was the first time I’ve driven through a sea of insane-seeming fishtailing cars and trucks on the freeway and then navigated several slippery, narrow side streets in a heavy snowstorm to actually arrive and spend time within the winter garden as an ultimate winter paradise, and ohhh, oh my!

Once I had arrived safely and started walking within that sacred silence, that essential essence of falling snow, I completely forgot about all the crazies along the way, surrendering to the beauty, instead. I could scarcely have hoped for such a complete wonderland treat, and ended up staying there, utterly enchanted for nearly three hours.

If you live in the Seattle area or plan on visiting in the next month or so, and have never yet been to the winter garden, go. If you’re coming to town for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, consider a field trip with friends for a few hours, rain or shine. Bundle up, take your camera and treat your nose and eyes to something completely unexpected. There’s no charge.




20 thoughts on “A Trip to Paradise Garden”

  1. I have walked some of those paths with you, I believe, and would wonderous want to wander again seeing that wonderland you have shared, with the fragrance of witchhazel wafting that silent white world.

  2. I could feel your winter wonderland endorphins coursing all the way across the continent! It’s hard to get in the car and on the snowy highway but, yes, once you’re in the midst of such ephemeral beauty, you are so, so thankful. I had a similar (but much lonelier) experience in the aftermath of an ice storm, when every single blade and grain of ornamental grass at our Music Garden was encased in ice. The garden tinkled! Thank you David.

    1. Ahhh, Janet, of course you would both get that rush of “winter wonderland endorphins” and have a tasty dish to add to the pot luck. Your Music Garden icecapade sounds wonderful. Right now I’m imagining a snowy gathering of friends, you and Saxon, and Mark, Rich and . . . all at play, mid-snowstorm, cameras and snowballs at the ready. We’d all pick five of our fave shots, later, and share them over heated drinks or bowls of steaming soup. Hey, a guy can wish, eh?

  3. David, Was introduced to your site by Karen Chapman_she and I have become “pen” pals and I am so glad she turned me on to your site and photography. I, too, love taking pics of nature and my landscape designs and you have provided so much inspiration. What is your camera and what lenses do you prefer for close-ups? Also do you know the name of your WordPress theme? I like its simplicity.

    1. Hi Elaine, how nice to meet you here, through our common friend. As far as the theme, it is Twenty Eleven. Cameras vary widely from my little iPhone 4 to my trusty Canon G12, to my Canon 7D to my Canon EOS1DsMark III. You’ll learn soon enough that I am not much of an equipment snob and am far more interested in making pictures that have feeling and tell stories than I am about making pictures that meet someone else’s idea of technical perfection. Whatever camera can help me capture and explore a story best within a moment is the one I’m in awe of in that moment.

  4. David: I’ve just discovered you through Facebook and NetworkedBlogs. Entrancing photos! As I look outside at the snowy landscape here in Wisconsin, all I can say is “blah,” but through your lens the snowy scenes are spectacular. Winter photography is not my strong point. So I certainly appreciate your work through this post!

    1. Thank you for making time in your day to offer such generous encouragements. I’m delighted that you’ve found me and hope you’ll find plenty to feed your eyes and soul along the way.

  5. He is using the default WordPress theme: Twenty-Eleven. It is wonderful in its simplicity, and spareness, and doesn’t get in the way of Dave’s beautiful photos. It is also configurable in that you can change the header photos easily. Best of all, it handles mobile devices with aplomb!

    Breathtaking photos, Dave!

    1. Tracy, if you are in any way responsible for the wonders that continually delight and amaze me at the arboretum, then allow me to bow deeply in your virtual direction, and please pass on those regards to any of your team members who cannot possibly hear the words thank you often enough. And if you’ll click on the link to the old blog, you’ll find several other blogged visits to the winter garden, as well. I do everything in my power to get the word out.

  6. Beautiful photos! Thank you for showing this beautiful garden covered in snow and recommending it as a stop in Seattle. I am coming to the NWFG show, to your class (iPhone) and might just make it to the winter garden too. Can’t wait!

  7. You are so fortunate to live merely a bridge away from the winter garden in the arboretum. I can’t remember making it down from Bellingham when there’s snow in the garden. That 90 miles of I-5 craziness makes it tough. Thanks for sharing the snowy beauty.

    1. You’re most welcome, buddy. Yes, fortunate, and yet, few know better than you, sir that fortune smiles on those who show up. Would be fun to meet up there some snowy day, though, wouldn’t it?

  8. Hi David. My daughter Katie managed to get to your recent Molbaks seminar but didn’t have the opportunity to introduce herself. She did, however, LOVE your talk about this garden and it inspired her to go and visit it in torrential rain! Her photos were in turn my inspiration for my next blog post.
    Many thanks for all you share. Hope to see you soon (I’m in the UK so will miss the NWGFS)

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