You've raked up the last of the leaves to reveal your winter landscape. Dotted with evergreens, textured grasses and a granite sphere dusted...
You’ve raked up the last of the leaves to reveal your winter landscape. Dotted with evergreens, textured grasses and a granite sphere dusted with snow, the garden is ready to be enjoyed.
But, well, it’s awfully cold and wet out there.
While winter seems like the time for a break, it’s actually an ideal season for appreciating the garden without the imperatives of weeding, mulching, trimming and planting. The only hurdle is climate. So here are a few weather-minded strategies for appreciating your garden this time of year.
Crank the heat
Sometimes it’s simply a matter of staying warm. Propane gas heaters kicking out 40,000-plus BTUs can heat up a cabana or make an open patio comfortable on a cool afternoon. (These are widely available from home-improvement stores and specialty shops such as Sutter Home & Hearth, in Ballard and Woodinville.)
Outdoor fireplaces are another option. This time of year, a full fireplace or partially covered chimenea (with a smokestack that is protected from the nearly constant rain) works best.
A flame provides heat and a warm centerpiece for spending time outside, but fires require dry fuel and considerable tending. Also on the downside, outdoor fire structures rarely provide the same concentrated heat source as a propane heater, and they release pollutants into the air.
Rethink summer elements: Awnings, canopies, pergolas, gazebos and umbrellas keep furniture dry. They can do the same for you. Kim Rooney, a landscape architect based in Green Lake, recently designed a four-post cabana with a copper roof for clients.
“In the summer, it provides shade,” Rooney says. In the winter, it protects against rain, “and they can put a little stove next to it.” This provides an all-season getaway out in the garden.
There’s almost no limit — other than desire and budget — to what you can put on a deck or a patio. “There’s a movement to build covered outdoor living-room structures with a fireplace, a barbecue and a wet bar,” says Michal Lehmann, a landscape designer for Lifestyle Landscapes, in Seattle. In some cases, they include infrared heaters in the rafters and even plasma-screen televisions — “the whole Street of Dreams thing,” Lehmann says.
Take the plunge
There’s nothing quite like riding out a rainstorm in a hot tub. Almost as soon as she moved from Kauai to her home on Maury Island last fall, Christie Withers installed a Clearwater Spa off her deck, for just this purpose. “It’s the best thing I’ve done,” says Withers, who has an enormous vegetable garden, a fruit orchard, flower beds and several acres of woods. On clear nights, she enjoys sparkling stars and moonlight through branches. “We see deer peer through the brush at us wishing they could join us.”
Another option is a soaking tub. Architects Lisa Chadbourne and Daren Doss, of Chadbourne + Doss, in the Central District, installed a wood-fed hot tub on a dock over the Columbia River, outside their second home in Astoria, Ore. Made by the Seattle-based Snorkel Stove Co., the four-person hot tub is like a Japanese soaking tub. There are no jets. Doss and Chadbourne assembled the red cedar stays themselves.
It takes one wheelbarrow full of wood and about two hours to heat the tub to 104 degrees, Doss says. “I put a bunch of wood in before I go off to the beach” — he’s a surfer — “and come back and jump right in. That’s heaven to me.”
Bring the garden inside
Plan and plant with indoor views in mind, because that’s your wintertime perspective. It’s not too late this year to add a colorful pot or sculpture positioned as a focal point from a favorite spot indoors. In addition, path and patio mosaics create bonus views from a second-floor window.
As I said last week, outdoor lighting is essential in winter. But don’t overlook what’s going on inside. Seattle landscape architect Bruce Hinckley, who owns Alchemie in Pioneer Square and Sun Valley, says that interior and exterior lighting should be planned together. For example, indoor lights should be dimmable and lamp shades opaque to reduce the mirror effect of interior light on windows.
Lisa Wogan is a frequent contributor to The Seattle Times: email@example.com