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Article: Rediscovering My Winter Wonderland: Wonderful memories!

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United Kingdom

November 27, 2009
9:59 AM

Post #7313208

Dear Angela, thank you for the amazing memories this article has brought back to me, quite beautiful.
Many years ago I began as an Apprentice for the Parks Department; I started in the spring, so life seemed wonderful, even though I was considered the lowest of the low, but it did not matter to me, as I had to go to college twice a week and work in a stunning Victorian park for four days a week, so I was happy, despite the rough jobs I got! Six of us had started and the number dwindled as the time went on, for the Foreman was hard with us, to say the least. His famous plant I.D. on a Friday morning was dreaded by all, for he used to take each Apprentice around this vast park, point at a plant and you had to tell him the Botanical name, its uses and where it came from. If you failed you had to buy him a pint of beer at lunchtime, for each one you got wrong. So you had to learn quickly or you lost your wages.
The Autumn (Fall), was approaching, and despite the mountains of leaves and pine cones etc, we had to clear, I was wondering if the winter was going to be boring.
Despite clearing snow from the paths, I think I was concerned about the lack of colour. We had already removed the summer carpet bedding in the 40 beds, and replanted the winter bedding, so that was done.
The snow came and we did have a lot of clearing up, which did not give me a lot of time to look at the wonders around me.
Then the Foreman took me round, and I was taken aback, for despite the snow there was colour everywhere. Going around a corner the Dogwoods (Cornus alba & Cornus stolonifera), that I had cut back in the spring had shot up and their red and gold stems, glowed against the snow. Then in the walled garden the winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), with its little yellow flowers, defying the cold. A surprise of scent from winter sweet (Chimonanthus praecox), with its cup shaped yellow flowers and its heavily scented purple centers. New Zealand tassel bushes (Garrya elliptica), with their long silk like tassels, glinting against the warm red Victorian walls.
To the mysterious Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn', this stunning plant that given any excuse on a couple of mild days from Autumn to early spring, bursts into white, pink and fragrant blooms, a winter treat.
I had loved seeing the witch hazels (Hamamelis sp.), giving their Autumn colours, I was in for a treat as we had many different species of these in the park. To suddenly see these spider like flowers with an incredible scent and differing colours, at all different times in the winter, was beyond me, for I did not know they even flowered.
The Coral bark maples (Acer 'Senkaki'), with their pink coral coloured bark were stunning, as was our only paperbark maple (Acer griseum), this with its peeling cinnamon coloured bark was admired by everyone.
Of course the conifers stood out all over the park. In the middle of the main lawn was a huge blue cedar (Cedrus atlantica glauca), this massive tree stood in the snow with its blue foliage showing off, and was a truly breathtaking sight.
The list is endless in this wonderful park, I never dreaded winter again and looked forward to seeing some old friends flower again, even on the coldest days.
I finished my seven year Apprenticeship and moved on to higher things, but I never forgot what I was taught and the winter wonders.
Here is a picture of a paperbark maple I rescued from the Chelsea flower show, when I was working there.
It was quite old then and lives in my mothers garden. It is under-planted with cyclamen sp.
Regards from a very wet England.

Thumbnail by NEILMUIR1
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Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

November 27, 2009
6:59 PM

Post #7314096

Neil, I so enjoyed reading your response! It sounds like you had quite the trial by fire when you started there. Sometimes it is the teachers that challenge us most that also end up teaching us the most!

I've just recently discovered witchhazel, and am really intrigued by it. I want to research some more and find a way to work it into my landscape! I really enjoyed your descriptions of the unexpected colors and scents you encountered as you toured the park during the winter.

Thank you for taking the time to share your memories with me! It made my morning!


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