01 January 2013

red

The first real snow of the season fell Christmas day, two days after Christmas, and again two days after that. There isn't a ton of it (probably seven inches or so), but even a little makes every branch and stalk in the garden look like an old Japanese brush painting.

The pot-bound red osier dogwood Alan sent north with B and me a few years ago has settled into its new home in the garden that edges the patio. I cut it back hard every spring (to within about four inches of the ground; I said hard, didn't I?), and it sends up lots of new growth through the spring and summer. During the growing season, the branches are just as plain as can be, but come autumn, they begin to color up, and when the leaves drop, there they are in all their fine redness.

After reading about winterberries on Margaret Roach's A Way to Garden
for the past few years, B and I decided we needed to add a few to our yard. We're not following Margaret's lead— she sites them in the distance where they "'read' as brilliant landscape elements when [she] is tucked indoors" (although we may do that, too, eventually). Instead, the two shrubs we bought and planted this summer form part of an arc, along with three Physocarpus 'Coppertina,' at the top of the driveway, separating it from the garden. These two little shrubs have already set some berries, "as red as any blood." The birds will love them, when they eventually find them.

Finally, what's a catalog of winter red on our hill without a view of the barn dressed up in its star? Putting it up (B and I aim for the second Sunday of Advent) always is, shall we say, a little bit of a challenge (I keep vowing to make it easier on ourselves by mounting the two pieces on a frame and hoisting the assembly via a pulley system to the side of the barn; maybe this summer), but seeing it shine from the early-winter darkness inspires and anchors us through Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

Happy new year!