A Walk In The Woods

This past December and early January my family met at the Morton Arboretum for a Covid safe hike. We met in Mother Nature’s family room where we didn’t have to worry about how many of us could hangout without adding air purifiers. It was a peaceful blessedly happy respite for all of us, three generations from 3 different parts of our family.

The Spruce Plot

We hiked the path through The Spruce Plot each time we met. Hiking the woods in the middle of winter has it’s own unique pleasures, and hiking The Spruce Plot brings it all home. The stillness you experience walking through the majestic trees is broken occasionally by the creaking sound the trees make as they sway in the wind. It sounds to me like they’re talking to each other, maybe to us as well, welcoming us as guests in their home. The sound inside is softened, the air still. You’re protected from the wind in the winter and the heat in the summer. You are surrounded by the trunks as the green needles grow mainly up top, reaching for the sun, creating a picture of familial strength, with the tree trunks standing tall right next to each other.

The Morton Arboretum has so many different gardens to explore. You can drive through naturalized groves or park and hike the paths through them. The Spruce Plot, where I took these photos, is spectacular. Morton Arboretum’s website describes it as The quiet mystery of the spruce plot at The Morton Arboretum will make you feel as if you were hiking in the forests of Norway and Romania. Do you feel a temperature difference as you enter? The spruce plot creates a cool, dark environment unlike anything else at the Arboretum. Look towards the sky to see the impressive height of these trees.”


In early December, when my hubby and I went on a day date, we saw a bride and groom with their photographer. Later, as we walked down the Spruce path, we found ornaments in the branches and lovely words spelled out with pine cones on the stone benches along the path. It was really cool. I thought maybe it had been decorated for the wedding. When we went back, they were still there, and more had been added. I loved it! Someone took the time to find the pine cones, shape the sticks, and even decorate them with green branch bits.  It seemed like there were more ornaments each time we went.

AND  . . . 

More Winter Garden Planning

Continuing on the theme of winter walks as a place to find your vision for planning your garden, today I took a walk with my dog through Lake Katherine in Palos Heights, Illinois. Amazingly it’s just 15 minutes from my house. The path around the lake, not the falls, is just one mile.  At the beginning and the end of the path are the houses, one with a little nature museum and the other a place for parties.  Also at the beginning and the end, are the water falls which help keep the water in the man-made lake aerated.
Along the way I took pictures to show how you can take inspiration from large gardens and bring them home to your own gardens.  Lake Katherine’s garden walk is curvilinear following the natural curves of the lake.
As you  walk around the lake you  pass different types of gardens carved out of the landscape. There is a raised bed herb garden right next to a perennial flower garden.

This is the perennial flower garden bed edged with large natural stones. The natural stones create a slightly raised bed, keeping the goodies in the dirt from washing away with the rain or melting snow.

This entrance to the Lake Katherine gardens is still gorgeous even in winter.

A well designed garden entryway will shine in every season. The red  color of the bridge is complimented by the red twig dogwoods on both sides of the side walk.The height of the tree anchors the bridge to the garden. The natural stone edging outlining the curve of the garden ties the different elements of the garden together. The light color of the  edging stones contrasts with the color of the bridge, the plants in the garden,  and the grass. This highlights the shape of the garden, and really catches your eye this time of year.

Here is a view of the garden from the other side. Note that the sidewalk is circular where the tree is and the edging follows the curve of the sidewalk.
Your entryway certainly doesn’t have to include a bridge. You can have a pergola, an arbor, a gate, or just a simple edged path with bushes on each side. No matter what structure you choose,  the design principles are still the same. The garden around the sidewalk before the bridge is very doable!  An edged curvilinear bed with some bushes and a tree. This you can do!!!   Just a few key things to remember: 1) choose the right plants for the site (sun, sun/shade, or shade); 2) just the right size plants for your bed: and 3) choose the right number of plants for your bed.
Start with something that has structure and/or color during the winter months

Same backyard, four different seasons.  No large pergola or gate, just a simple metal arbor at the entrance to the backyard garden. The stone patio has a curvilinear design and the plants accent or anchor the design. Boxwoods on the side of the arbor are green during the winter and stand up to a lot, I mean a lot, of snow. The dogwoods along the fence are red all winter long.
Next week I will go over how to layout a basic design and then how to fill it.
Until then . . .

keep looking for the path that speaks to you.