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.