It’s the third week of January and accumulating snow is forecast for southeastern Michigan. We haven’t had much snow during this unusually warm first half of winter, so I’m kind of looking forward to it.
In our Western culture. we appreciate how snow can change the landscape. For example. imagine how evergreen trees look during the winter, with freshly fallen snow clinging to their deep green branches. Those kinds of scenes are a favorite subject for landscape painters and photographers.
Our Japanese gardening friends take it a step further. They feel gardening is a year-round process. For them, winter is simply another gardening season.
When Japanese gardeners select trees and shrubs or perennial plants for their gardens, they take into consideration how the plants will look in the fall and through the winter. They look forward to snow in the winter so they can enjoy sekku, translated as “snow blossoms”.
Sekku refers to the way snow gracefully accumulates on trees, other plants, stones and gravel. The contrasting deep green colors of evergreens and bamboos are especially associated with sekku.
Stems on shrubs and old seed heads of perennials can also contribute to winter enjoyment. They make a good foundation for their own type of snow blossoms as they collect and hold snow.
The best thing about this type of winter gardening is that once the plants have been selected and planted during the growing season, all we have to do is sit back and wait for snow!
Another advantage of this gardening mindset is you don’t have to be in such a rush in the fall to tidy up the garden by removing all of the old plant stems.
While clearing your garden in the fall, stop for a moment and take a closer look at it. Use your artistic eye and keep some interesting stems and leaves for your sekku.
Stems that show signs of disease should be removed, of course, but leaving as many as possible will provide visual interest during the winter.
As an extra bonus, you’ll help out many of the beneficial insects that spend the winter in the dead plant stems and leaf litter left over from the previous growing season.
So after our next snow, put yourself into a positive frame of mind and take some time to enjoy your own snow blossoms.
Even though I’m enjoying the snow-covered landscape, I’m still counting down the weeks until May.