There’s something pretty special about visiting a garden in the dead of winter.
Why? Because in the winter, a well-designed garden allows one to get a peek behind the curtain, to study the bare-bones of a garden. The curtain, of course, being the attention-grabbing flowers of spring and summer.
San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden just happens to be one of these well-designed gardens.
A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to visit the Tea Garden. Since moving to SF last year, something amazing happened to her – she’s finally interested in gardens!
Oh, how I tried and tried to get her interested over the years. I would try anything to hook her in (remember the praying mantis nest? Or growing sprouts or mushrooms? Or, my personal favorite –making grape juice?)
Deep-down, I knew it was there, but the rebel in her wouldn’t acknowledge it to me, acting bored out of her mind whenever I’d drag her to another garden.
Well, flash forward a decade, and she asks if there are any gardens we can visit, even though its winter. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather!
I knew I had to pick a garden that would be intriguing this time of year, so off we went to the Japanese Tea Garden.
Many (many) years ago, I lived in SF and worked at the DeYoung Museum, which is next door to the Tea Garden. Back then, museum employees were allowed to visit the Tea Garden as often as we wanted, and I would eat my lunch there almost every day.
Looking back, I can’t believe what an amazing gift that was.
Another reason why visiting the garden in the winter? Less tourists!
Most people assume all gardens are dormant in the winter, and aren’t worth paying money to see.
Boy are they wrong!
In a winter garden, evergreens reign supreme, thanks to their unique textures and forms.
This is the time to study a particular combination, noticing why and how it works so well.
Strategically placing plants with varying textures and forms near one another can result in pure magic.
Or, if a plant has a strong deciduous shape, consider placing it by itself to act as a focal point.
This tree wouldn’t look nearly as stunning if it were surrounded by a lot of other plants.
But isolating it, transforms the plant’s dormant shape into a piece of art.
A garden’s structures, sculptures, and art also take center stage during the winter, as there isn’t a flower to be found to steal one’s attention.
Though, to be honest, I doubt there’s a flower on earth that could steal the attention away from a 100-year old pagoda or moon bridge!
Chilled to the bone, we ended our visit at the Tea House (below), sharing a steaming-hot pot of tea along with a plate of cookies.
Can you believe the fortune that was in my cookie?
It couldn’t have been more spot-on!
And speaking of Seattle, I’ll be presenting there again this year!
I’ll first be speaking at the Woodinville Garden Club on 2/26, and then again at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show on 2/27 and 2/28.
I’ll be giving two new talks at the show: The 7 Sins of Garden Design and Knowing When & How to Break the Rules.
If you happen to be there, please stop by and say hi!