Winter interest in JK’s garden



Today we’re visiting the home garden of award-winning garden designer Jay Safford. We’ve gone into other seasons before, but today they’re showing what it’s like in winter.

I designed my garden called Rhodwood, located in a mountain valley in North Carolina, during the COVID pandemic. Frankly, it was invaluable in helping me through this period. The front garden is a stylized meadow built over a septic drain field. Designing it for four-season appeal was a high priority for me, as winters here can be long and harsh. Here are some photos taken during the months we usually think of as dull and lifeless when it comes to our gardens.

Stylized meadow garden with autumn foliage in the backgroundThis photo, taken on a mid-October morning, shows the sunken garden leaning against a glorious autumn sunrise that highlights the mountain across the street.

Enclosing seed heads and dry plants in the winter gardenThe seed heads are left standing until March, when the entire meadow is cut. I love the winter interest, especially the texture and dynamism, provided by the 200 or so. Panicum And Pennisetum and seed heads like these ‘October Sky’ asters (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’, Zones 3-8).

Close up of white Russian sage plantsSilver Skeletons of Russian Sages (Salvia Yangi, Zones 5-9) serve as ornaments in the winter garden as they glow in the afternoon sunlight.

Bare shrubs with colorful stems in winterYellow twig dogwoods (Cornus Ceresia ‘Flaviramea’ zones 3–8) and a coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Singo-Kaku’, Zones 5-9), cut from a fallen tree branch, adds excitement to the winter garden.

A small bush with pink berries covered in snow.It is covered with snow. Erica ‘Kramer’s Red’ (Zones 5-8) reminds me of a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with raspberries.

A small shrub with pink berries beneath a small, twisted cone.Along the roadside, winter interest catches the eye of passers-by. ‘Craemer Red’ Erica, Cedars Atlantica ‘Blue Cascade’ (zones 6-9), and Juniperus conferta ‘Golden Pacific’ (zones 6-9) shines on a dreary winter day. From a design perspective, first impressions are everything.

Overlooking the winter garden from the covered breezeway.By looking at dogtrots (covered air passages) in a conservatory, one can easily see the value of conifers in a conservatory. It’s a good thing I have a love affair with them!

A garden bed with colorful conifers and evergreens in winterOne of my favorite parts of the garden, especially in winter, is the hillside full of conifers, heaths and heathers. This view, taken from my living room window, shows its profound effect. Callamagrostus × acutiflora ‘Carl Foster’ (zones 5-9) seed heads that I planted as part of my foundation planting.

Close up of bright green and yellow plants in a winter gardenHere’s a close-up of the same vignette. Firs of conifers, heaths, heathers, and a dwarf balsam (Abies balsamea, Zones 3-6) put on a show all winter long.

Close up of dried hydrangea flowers with a dusting of snowTheir dried flower heads Hydrangea Panculata ‘Phantom’ (zones 3-8) adds a lot to the winter landscape. I leave them in place until April 1st, when I cut the plants back to within 12 inches of the ground, just like you cut roses. By doing this it stays at a height of 5 feet in summer instead of 8 to 9 feet. A large size will dominate the garden.

Red berries and dried ornamental grass in front of a coniferThis color of ‘Orange Rocket’ barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’, zones 4-8), ‘Curly Tops’ Eastern white pine (Pence strobes ‘Curly Tops’, zones 3–8), and ‘Shenandoah’ Pancum (Panecum virgetum ‘Shenandoah’, zones 4-9) blooms in winter. Please note that barberry is not invasive in my area.

Mass planting of low-growing conifersI believe that mass plantings add both drama and serenity to the garden. On this large scale Juniperus conferta ‘Golden Pacific’ earns its place in the garden, especially in winter.

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