Here we go into winter. The temperature dropped at the end of Thanksgiving weekend. The pumpkin by the door collapsed, and our wreaths don’t go up quite yet.

A walk through the garden on a drizzly, cold morning helps us shift gears. Even better in the company of two enthusiastic gardeners who’ve dropped in for a visit. One is veteran and well-known gardener, Anne Raver, former garden columnist of The New York Times. She’s brought her friend Barb Nolan, who’s been bitten by the garden bug and devours stacks of books Anne gives her.

And what better time than late fall for a new gardener to study a garden? The garden structure — the paths, the rocks Kurt Bluemel so skillfully placed, the curves of the bed — stands out.

“All the ebullience is gone,” says Anne as we ease down a path that feels wider than usual. “You see things in a new light.” There’s more light in the garden too, especially the woodland garden, where the deciduous tree canopy has dropped. Every remaining plant is more noticeable: native pachysandra, rohdea, hellebores.

In late fall we can focus on what needs replacing. We ask Anne for suggestions on replacement possibilities for the Styrax that has to come down. Her quick reply: “Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy?’ Franklinia? Another Halesia?”

It’s exciting to think of the possibilities. And it’s easier to think in the calm of the winter garden.

“There’s something so peaceful about plants this time of year,” Anne says. She’s right. Just what is needed before the holidays rev into full gear.


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