Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Inventorying Gardens and our Lives

a snowy landscape with a bird house and evergreens covered in snow.

Hello fellow readers, Life cycles are much like the cycles of nature and the seasons, and while our plants are dormant is a perfect time for inventorying gardens and our lives.

Looking forward. Then, looking back. 
a black and white dog named Jolee jumping out of Hakone grass in snow

Jolee loves frolicking in the Hakone Grass/ Hakonechloa.

It occurs to me when we are young, entering adulthood, we are in a stage of growing and gathering. Typically choosing a partner, thereby adding an extended family. Pursuing a career, nesting in a home, maybe having children. When young, we tend to look forward rather than look back.

As we grow older, there’s often a shift from looking forward to looking back to what has been. We typically do less gathering and more letting go of unneeded possessions, unhealthy habits, or relationships, perhaps.

Cherish today—this moment.

Letting go doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to the future with excitement. The greatest gift, though often the most significant challenge, is living “in the now.” Cherishing today—this moment.

Our plants are dormant over winter, but it’s a beautiful time to dream about the bright, colorful world to come. At the same time, enjoy the world around you now. Take an inventory of your garden. Do you have good bones – meaning the structure of your outdoor spaces? Consider your garden bed lines, hardscape shapes and function, the form of your focal points, and woody plants.

White barked birch with black markings that look like a smile.

Do you see Mr. Paper Birch smiling?

a dusting of snow on branches of umbrella pine needles

Umbrella Pine Sciadopitys verticillata

Winter interest in the garden showcases the showy bark of trees and shrubs. There are majestic native Oaks (Quercus) and Beech trees (Fagus) that cleverly retain some of their dry leaves to protect their buds in winter. I adore how their leaves rustle in the wind. And the artful markings on the trunks of birch trees like Mr. Paper Birch with a big grin.

Do you have good bones?

Some dry perennials and ornamental grasses look glorious in the winter. Like Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa), the color of golden wheat becomes a favorite spot for Jolee to play. And unlike taller ornamental grasses, it pops back up after being trampled.

And they’re all sorts of evergreen foliage colors and shapes of woody plants with weeping or vase-shaped branching. The whirls of my favored Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillate) become lacelike in freshly fallen snow.

Of course, there are persistent fruits such as Winterberry to enjoy, along with the fun of watching birds feasting on them.

a bluestone patio and foundation planting in a disting of snow

How Beautiful a Winter Landscape can be. Design by Mary Stone, Stone Associates Landscape Desing & Consulting.

Landscapes can be beautiful year-round.

Garden structures such as fences, pergolas, arbors, and some garden pots and urns that are winter hardy can enhance your good bones.

Creatively designed landscapes are beautiful year-round. You may notice things are overcrowded, and moving them may be in order. Or areas where additions will enhance the landscape.

While inventorying your gardens, take notes. And if you need more than tweaks, it would be wise to take measurements and make a plan using graph paper. Or consider a professional landscape design you can implement over time.

Appreciate the beauty of our world now. Enjoy your life now. But along with the now comes dreams, hopes, and inspiring plans for a beautiful and joyful future.

Garden Dilemmas? (and your favorite Podcast App.)

Tune in to more of this story featured in the Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries Podcast:

bright red swath of winterberry against blue sky and snow

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

an oak tree in snow wiht brown leaves clinging on the branches

Cleverly, Oaks retain leaves in winter to protect buds.

Links to related columns you’ll enjoy:

Native Plants, especially Oaks, are Essential

Prized Umbrella Pine 

Winter Beauty of Winterberry

Fine Gardening Magazine’s article on 12 Ways to Create Winter Interest



Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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