Garden Review Through
the Seasons — Winter
Jeanne DeBenedetti Keyes
Like many obsessed gardeners, when I see an attractive garden or landscape on my way to work or walking through the neighborhoods of Portland, I try to stop by several times during the year to see what's blooming and how the the current weather is affecting the plants. I wonder; how would these gardens look through the seasons? Would it be interesting in the dead of winter? Is there fall color? How would the garden fare through the years? Are there any plant combinations that would work well in my garden?
I decided to take some pictures of a few public gardens spaces in downtown Portland. The goal is to record how each garden changes with the seasons. Setting some ground rules, I plan to take photos of these gardens in all four seasons, at the height of the season, to get the full effect of the maturity of the plants. I will take the photos at the same time of day, generally late morning, and in the same location. Since these gardens are along the waterfront, a big tourist destination, the garden designers have made some attempt to display attractive vignettes that provide either interest all year long or some kind of seasonal change. The gardens are regularly maintained. The buildings of Portland not only provide some protection from the wind but reflect the heat from the sun's rays. The Willamette River also provides a moderating effect.
I will start with winter. The photographs were taken in late January 2014, after many days of below freezing temperatures and clear, sunny weather.
The plants in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park (photo right) are in a large, round, concrete planter. The exposure is full sun. The plants are exposed to some wind but generally not too much. From the photo, you would think you are in some tropical clime, enjoying a warm sunny day. Not so, and yet the Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) and Magnolia, although curling their leaves are both healthy and are withstanding the cold quite well. The grasses in the foreground, likely acorus (Acorus gramineus sp) are bit dry and ratty looking but in general are holding up well. The phormium (Phormium tenax) does not look good.
The garden, near Riverplace Marina, really shines in the fall (photo left). Many small trees such as crabapples (Malus sp.), Crepe myrtle (Lagestromia indica sp.), and smoke bush (Cotinus sp.) were included to showcase berries, beautiful bark or leaf color. The garden designers used many different types of grasses to give this garden a lot impact in the Autumn. The plants are arranged in rows or groupings of multiples. Again, the plants are in large, concrete, raised planters and also in full sun.
Lastly, I couldn't help but include a photograph of my garden (photo right). It's a winter picture with the snow! But mostly, I am including it so that I can see how my garden holds up through the seasons. This portion of the garden is in full sun early morning through early afternoon, then in the shade of the house next door for the rest of the day. I selected plants that not only provide seasonal interest but showcase different leaf textures.