on gardening…winter garden time and year end thoughts…

On December 17th thanks to a gentleman named Jim Peterson at gardendesign.com , I finally got to hear David Culp speak! I have written many times the influence David’s Book The Layered Garden has had on my current garden. I practice the theory of layered gardening and kind of always have. I also have David’s other book A Year at Brandywine Cottage, which I purchased in March just as the world entered into COVID-land.

Before COVID-19 hit I had wanted to attend one of the talks/lectures David Culp does from time to time. Every time I had found out in the past about a talk/lecture, it was sold out before I could even register. So when some one in my gardening group told me about Jim Peterson setting up this lovely virtual garden talk on Zoom, I signed right up!! (And thanks to the generosity of Jim and David, you can watch a replay for the next week! CLICK HERE.)

I have been meaning to tell you what I learned and took note of since last week, but life has gotten in the way until now.

David says we must as gardeners (or should) prepare for weather extremes due to global warming. He also says January is a great month to plan. And dream of future gardens.

What does David Culp see for 2021? In the winter months make plans. What to add, what to subtract. Make a wish list, then a list of essentials.

Here (courtesy of Jim Peterson via email) are the plants David Culp discussed:

List of plants, in order of presentation
(names per Missouri Botanical Garden, may or may not match David’s)

Foeniculum vulgare ‘Smokey’ bronze fennel
Onopardum acanthium Scotch cottonthistle
Euphorbia corollata flowering spurge
Edgeworthia chrysantha paperbush
Lindera angustifolia Oriental spicebush
Matteuccia struthiopteris ostrich fern
Leucothoe axillaris coastal doghobble
Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris climbing hydrangea
Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ wood spurge
Sedum sp. dwarf sedum (David does not specify species)
For the winterberries below, David was not sure of the cultivar names and
provided a couple per berry color:
Ilex verticillata – red berries ‘Winter Red’ or ‘Sparkleberry’
Ilex verticillata – yellow ‘Winter Gold’ or ‘Golden Verboom’
Ilex verticillata – orange ‘Little Goblin’ or ‘Afterglow’
Helleborus niger Christmas rose
Galanthus nivalis common snowdrop
Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’ snowdrop cultivar
Hamamelis vernalis ‘Quasimodo’ Ozark witch hazel

I smiled at a lot of the plants he mentioned. A great list actually. I already grow bronze fennel, and have for a few years. It just pops up in various beds now. Butterflies love it and it is so feathery and pretty. BUT do NOT plant it near your dill. Fennel and dill will cross-pollinate and the end result is bleck city. It also inhibits growth of things like tomatoes so what I have read is don’t plant your fennel especially near your vegetables and dill. So I don’t.

Galanthus, hellebores, hydrangea petiolaris, witch hazels also particular favorite of mine and very much present in my garden. I hope to make room some day for the galanthus and hellebores David Culp has grown. He also does this cool thing called the Galanthus Gala and I hope once COVID-19 is behind us there will be opportunities to attend that again.

Other points David Culp raised? How we should be good stewards of the garden. Use plants that are not invasive and if you have any that are, be a good garden steward and dead head. (Think butterfly bush, which I actually have pretty much gotten rid of because there are other plants I would rather have.)

David Culp also says use winter months to think about plants to split and what you might want to change. He stressed how the design of your garden is especially important in the winter when you see the garden bones. He said placement in the garden, focal points and focus are things to get right in the winter, and how winter gives us the opportunity to see things differently.

Now at this point I had already had quite a few “a-ha” moments. Why? Simple. David Culp is a wonderful and engaging speaker. You feel like he is speaking directly to you, not at you. Some speakers lecture, he envelops you into what he is discussing and it’s terrific. I know my neighbors think I am the crazy woman who wanders her garden in the winter, but I do wander around. Looking at things and wondering about what to play with in the future.

Now I am also forever indebted to the late Suzy Bales. A few years ago, and a couple of years before she passed away she gifted me a copy of he book The Garden in the Winter: Plant for Beauty and Interest in the Quiet Season and it is slightly dogeared although a hardback because I so love this book. It completely opened my eyes to the garden in winter. Mrs. Bales was one of the people who really influenced my desire for a four season garden and also one that was on all sides of my house. You can buy The Garden in the Winter : Plant for Beauty and Interest in the Quiet Season on Amazon and Thrift Books and Ebay, etc.

Although we are talking about my David Culp experience, I thought of Suzy Bales when he was speaking of the garden in winter and wondered what it would have been like to attend a lecture with all my favorite garden writers? My list would be David Culp, Suzy Bales (if she were still alive), Jenny Rose Carey, Monty Don, Ken Druse, Doug Tallamy, and Adam Frost.

Now back to David Culp. He believes winter is both a time for color and/or a time for restraint. He talked about using related and repeating colors. And that is something my late father always talked about in the garden amusingly enough. Except to my mother that meant the garden had to resemble a frothy white Sissinghurst.

David Culp leaves his hydrangea flowers on for winter. So do I. They create this frothy sculptureness when snow hits them that I love. He also stresses deer resistant plants. Amen to that. He also suggests things planting things like witch hazel within view of your windows. Big check mark there. Thanks to Catherine Renzi of Yellow Springs Farm and Jenny Rose Carey of PHS I discovered and fell in love with witch hazels….and I keep trying to find more room for just one more….kind of like hydrangeas.

David Culp has a great eye and he encouraged his listeners to create tableaux or displays in the garden. He believes anything can become garden art depending upon the context. Found objects can be very fun. He also does winter as well as seasonal containers.

David laughed when he told us he would never be the voice of garden restraint. That so appeals to me because I love my own garden to explode in bloom and color. I also appreciate how he is a true plantsman who loves to discover plants and elements he can use in design.

He is also thoughtful with his clients. He will walk their spaces when clients want new gardens. Asks them what their expectations are, what plants do they like, what do they see?

David Culp also said he feels if he can’t be in the garden, the next best thing is talking about the garden with friends and fellow gardeners. And he also remarked how gardens should be celebrated year round and I agree 100%!

He ended with suggesting tools be checked out in January, that is actually the last thing I do in the fall. David said even when we’re not physically in our gardens, we are in our gardens because we are thinking about them. And he then said we are all in this garden together, and what a truly lovely thought.

This is my last gardening post for the year 2020. The photos peppered in this post including the Cooper’s Hawk are mine.

Best wishes for a magical Christmas and Happy New Year gardeners!

One comment

  1. Thank you Carla for this wonderful recap of David’s thoughts. David and I are scheduling more talks (one a month) as what he discussed were only the questions I had from the January section of his book A Year at Brandywine Cottage! Our intention is to share ideas in design, technique, planting, as well as enjoyment of the garden and ways to think of the garden.

    You noted: “ what it would have been like to attend a lecture with all my favorite garden writers? ”

    You are going to find out as we will be bringing the best in design and horticulture from around the world to all the passionate gardeners like you.

    Your readers can sign up for the garden design.com free newsletter to be alerted of upcoming events.

    Merry Christmas and thanks for attending!



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