Winter impressions

101223_cedar_needles2Winter in my parents-in-law’s garden in Mount Shasta in the mountains of far Northern California. I love exploring their yard with my camera. In addition to the planting beds and landscaping features they created, their property has a lot of native vegetation that is very different from what we have in Davis.

The elevation here is 3,500 ft. and the town receives quite a bit of snowfall because 14,179 ft. Mount Shasta, a massive volcano rising above the town on the east side, forces moisture out of the air as it rises and cools.

101223_pine_needlesAt home in Davis we are able to putter about the yard even in the dead of winter. There’s always something to do outside, not just cleanup work, but also preparing new garden beds, even doing some planting. In contrast, here in the mountains the gardener is forced into several months of inactivity because of the weather. The most that can be done is reorganize the garden shed or winter sowing. And of course there are always plant catalogs to peruse!

Still, there’s something wonderfully meditative about sitting in a warm house and looking out over an expanse of white broken only by towering pine and cedar trees—and soon bamboo.


The remnants of this year’s plants often have an amazing sculptural quality. For gardeners in cold-winter climates, they are a reminder of what their yards were like just a few months ago, and at the same time a promise of what next year will bring.


  1. Nice photos! Two questions: what kind of pine tree produces those funky cones? and what is the plant in the last photo?

  2. Alan, the cone is from a Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). My in-laws have about half a dozen Douglas firs in their back yard, together with sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), white fir (Abies concolor) and lots of Western redcedar (Thuja plicata). (Don't be too impressed with my botanical knowledge; I had to look up the Latin names.)

    The plant in the last photo is a money plant (Lunaria annua). It has beautiful purple flowers and forms these seed pods in the fall. It's hardy to zone 4, so you would be able to grow it. It freely reseeds itself.


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