How the Winter Garden is a Perfect Metaphor for Life

– Posted in: Garden Musings


As I sit and write this post, I marvel at how the winter garden is a perfect metaphor for life.

Regardless of what you feel about the results of the U.S. Presidential election, the country has been through a difficult time. Millions of us are still reeling from the rancor and divisiveness that took place this past year. We need quiet time to heal: Our souls yearn to be nourished by beauty.

The simplicity of winter has a deep moral. The return of Nature, after such a career of splendor and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere, is not lost either upon the head or the heart. It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread.  ~John Burroughs, “The Snow-Walkers,” 1866

For most gardeners, it is indeed a quiet time in the garden, when the ebullience of spring, the maturing of specimens in the summer, and the majesty of the fall color, have long passed.


Beyond harvesting the bounty of a fall harvest that you’ve protected from the cold weather, pruning back weak limbs on deciduous trees, or cutting back overgrown growth on an evergreen so that a large snowfall doesn’t wreak havoc, you now have more time to appreciate and study the beauty of the winter landscape.

“Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them.” ~Vincent A. Simeone

It’s an opportunity to see what your own garden looks like practically naked… when all but the foundation is slumbering.


When you take a ‘walk about’ in your garden, you may be surprised at the majesty of the Metasequoia glyptostroboides that you planted at the back of a large deciduous border that has, until this moment, been largely forgotten, just a backdrop for your larger perennials. You halt, awed by its elegance and symmetry, realizing that you’re seeing it only now ‘up close and personal’.

Or how about that self-seeded Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ that is nestled up in the corner of your steps-that when otherwise grouped in a vignette with more showy perennials goes unnoticed? When you nestle down and touch the upper and lower sides of its coiled deep purple leaves, you feel a deep sense of kinship and respect for this stalwart and hardy specimen.


Now is an ideal time to analyze what about the ‘bones’ of your garden makes sense and what doesn’t. If you find this subject a bit confusing, read up on ‘how to create strong bones for your garden’. Or bring in a few designers and let them tell you how you might improve the layout of your garden. And if you’re planning on bringing your garden back to life, be sure to look into this article about how long after roundup can i seed, how long after spraying roundup can you plant grass seed.

I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

I tend to be a stickler when it comes to using pathways, evergreens, pergolas, and deciduous trees and large shrubs in an effective and well thought out manner.


Unlike other elements of the garden, where I normally would suggest that you improvise and have fun experimenting, when you’re dealing with costly elements like stone pathways, a flagstone eating area, a row of evergreens for privacy, or a large pergola, you best take your time and really figure out how to create a design and layout that is not only visually pleasing but that suits your specific needs as well.

“The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination.” ~Ward Elliot Hour

In the silence of winter, it’s the perfect time to let your imagination run wild and dream about what your deepest desires are for your garden come this spring.


Let your mind roam and travel to destinations that you never knew existed. Peruse through magazines, look at luscious photos in books, and watch inspiring gardening videos: Over the holidays, treat yourself to watching some of your favorite movies with majestic gardens as backdrops. Then sit back and dream.

Wishing you a magical, replenishing, and fun-filled holiday.

With love, xo


P.S. You only have a few more weeks to take advantage of my FREE Digging Deep  Book and Course Giveaway before this one time only opportunity ends. To get a send a copy of Digging Deep and get immediate access to my 3 part course on “How to Transform and Ordinary Life into an Extraordinary Life”, click  here.


Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at

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Fran Sorin
8 comments… add one

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Cathy December 15, 2016, 7:47 pm

I never thought of my New England garden as being “dead” in winter, but rather, resting up and recharging for spring. I always left most of the pruning until spring, preferring to leave seeds, rose hips, and dried berries and fruits for the birds and squirrels.
Many of our plants – some of my favorite herbs and yes, the heuchera and the hellebores as well, even the occasional pansy – defied the freezing temperatures and snow and remained green and vibrant under the cover of snow and sometimes a light blanket of salt marsh hay. More than once over the past several years we’ve had tabbouleh salad made from our own mint and other herbs for Chanukkah.

I loved my northern climate garden in every season. I didn’t see ugliness in the dried stalks of the columbine and the canes of the roses, weighted over with rose hips. I didn’t see ugliness in the leaf litter under the trees and shrubs. I saw the promise of blooms to come and the rich compost that I’d turn over in the spring as the spring bulbs poked through, some coming even before the snow had completely melted. How I miss that garden!

SHEILA SCHULTZ December 15, 2016, 8:14 pm

Thank you, Fran… this has been a divisive year and a painful year for so many. The quiet of the winter allows me to think and dream. It also allows us to decide what we can do better. Thanks once again for reminding me to push forward . S

Mary Yee December 15, 2016, 9:47 pm

thank you, Fran, for a beautiful essay. Wishing you a happy new year.

Fran Sorin December 18, 2016, 12:29 am

Mary Yee,
Thanks for your lovely comment. Wishing you a joyful holiday and new year. With blessings-Fran

Fran Sorin December 18, 2016, 12:32 am

Sheila Schultz,
Indeed it has. I am spending time fortifying myself and replenishing my soul….and being very quiet. I so agree that winter is a wonderful time to reflect and dream. For me, it’s how to move forward with this next phase of my life taking note of what I love and have done well and areas where I want to improve and make changes. And of course, looking inwards is so much more difficult than casting stones at the ‘others’. But that is part of the work, isn’t it? Sending you much love, health and blessings for a beautiful holiday….Fran

Fran Sorin December 18, 2016, 12:36 am

Dear Cathy,
You are such a fine writer. I’m so glad you took a few minutes to reflect and describe vignettes from your garden in Massachusetts. I’m impressed that you were able to bring mint and other herbs into use in your Chanukkah meals in December.

You mirror my thoughts about missing your beloved garden. There is so much to love about living in a warmer climate (like bouganvillea in bloom outside my living room window) BUT I will always be an Eastern gardener at heart. When I return to Philadelphia or upstate New York, it feels so at home!!

Sending you, Steve, and your entire family blessings, prayers, and love this holiday season….Fran

Daniel Tyrrell December 19, 2016, 5:49 pm

Winter adds such a different aspect to a garden design that i cant imagine is easy.

Fran Sorin December 23, 2016, 6:50 am

I’m not sure I understand what you means. A Winter garden is actually a gift to gardeners who are interested in embracing and learning more about how to create an effective garden design. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season. Fran

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