Transition to Winter

Posted by & filed under Formal Gardens, Shrubs, Trees.

Transition Garden featuring maiden grassesThis week I am hiding in the Transition Garden.  Appropriate since we are finally making the seasonal change to winter – on the calendar, with the weather and with the types of plants that are now most interesting.  With a few exceptions, fall foliage is almost over and the stars of winter are starting to show off.  This is a great garden to watch that transition, even if it is not the reason for the garden’s name.

For those that don’t know (and most don’t, since it isn’t listed on the map), the Transition Garden is the small garden space that encompasses the ramp making the transition from the terrace behind the Visitor Center to the boat basin.   It also serves as transition space from the Visitor Center to the Japanese Garden – many of the plants in this garden are Japanese in origin.

Miscanthus sinensisOne of the most dominant plants in this garden is the maiden grass.  Mass plantings of a few different varieties, including ‘Gracillimus’ and ‘Cosmopolitan’ create a golden-brown sea of billowing flower heads that last into winter.  On a sunny day, the bright neutral colors are a nice compliment to blue skies and oranges of a nearby Japanese maple stubbornly holding onto its leaves.  A gentle breeze helps the waving grasses beckon the visitor to follow the path to the lower level.

Those that heed their call are not disappointed.  As you glide down the path, on your left is a nice display of bonsai.  An assortment of different specimens showcases the interesting differences between evergreen bonsais with their tightly trimmed foliage and the twisting trunks and branches of deciduous plants trained using this Japanese art technique.  

At the end turn of the ramp, visitors are treated to a Yuletide camellia in full bloom, reminding us that the winter season is here.  The rich red flowers and bright yellow stamens are a cheery welcome to the holiday season.  The dark Entrance to the Japanese Garden from the Transition Gardenevergreen foliage of the camellia, the lemon and green foliage of the Golden Sword Yucca to its left and the chartreuse stems of the Japanese kerria to the right are outstanding arguments that not all plants turn a dull brown or gray in the winter.

Further down the path is the entrance to the Japanese Garden, another great example of a garden in transition from fall to winter.  A few maples are still showing color, but most are now showcasing their twisting bare branches.  Manicured evergreen shrubs are left to provide more solid structure to this garden in winter. The lotus, a popular summer plant, has long disappeared from the pond with only a few brown seed pods bowing their heads towards Bark of Cornel Dogwood (Cornus officinalis)the chilly water.  A camellia standing at the water’s edge is full of pink blossoms, reminding us that flowers do bloom in the winter.  The rough, scaly bark of the Cornel Dogwood is very attractive right now and its arching trunk mimics the curving paths nearby.  Indeed this garden would look quite different to someone used to visiting just in the summer, but it is still a very beautiful space.  

I certainly will enjoy this seasonal transition in the Transition Garden.  I enjoy sitting here and relaxing while watching the slow and steady change of the garden as fall plants wrap up their display and the interesting winter plants emerge as the center of attention.  Plus, hiding under the leaves of the maiden grass helps keep me out of sight from the gardeners.


One Response to “Transition to Winter”

  1. William A.

    I have been wanting to visit Norfolk botanical garden for years. Would anyway have advice on growing bonsai trees indoors? Right now I have a bonsai ginseng tree (a ficus) that I am hoping to nurture into a mature bonsai. Any tips are appreciated…