The Art of the Four Seasons Garden

Story by K.C. Fahy-Harvick
Photos by Peter Blackwood

There are many challenges for the Finger Lakes gardener – keeping color in the garden all summer; extending interest through the fall; battling insects, diseases, predators, weather. But I believe the biggest challenge is our long winter season, when cold and snow can render the home landscape leafless and barren. Personally, I love the snow-covered hills and frozen waterfalls, but the dormant home landscapes can be severe and uninviting.

The extraordinary garden of Gerald Kral is one of the most coveted in our area. My friend Jerry has worked for decades on his gardens, and collected plants from all over the world in order to create these spectacular spaces that are now becoming one with his home. He is perhaps most famous for his collection of dwarf conifers, but as you can see, his Japanese Maples are also quite stunning.
Jerry’s use of garden art reflects his unique sense of whimsy, and shows precisely how art in the garden can create emphasis, and slow the pace of the garden viewer. It is difficult to choose a favorite spot in his garden, as even Jerry is hard-pressed to narrow it down to a few areas. I have chosen pictures that I hope prove useful to the average gardener, as they illustrate how the fundamental principles of gardening for all seasons can be put to use in any outdoor living area.

This beautiful garden (though not one of my designs) illustrates the principles of design I use the most when developing a home landscape plan. These fundamentals address the challenges of creating beauty and character for all four seasons, and will help gardeners of all skill levels work magic in their own home landscapes.

1) Know the complete life cycle of every tree, shrub and perennial. This includes winter features like the bark of trees, shape of shrubs, and the evergreen foliage of perennials that can actually add beauty during the long hibernation of your garden landscapes. Also, early spring can reveal unique characteristics of plants and trees that will add interest as the garden awakens.

2) Structures in the garden, like walls, walks, patios, pergolas and furniture, can create the artistic foundation of the landscape that carries through all four seasons. Consider these structural features to be like the “little black dress” is to your wardrobe, as they form the shape and character of the garden. Statuary and containers can be used like you accessorize your outfit. They direct the eye, emphasize your home’s architecture, and reflect your personality in your outdoor space.

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