I’m Carol Verhake, and I garden in Berwyn, Pennsylvania (Zone 6b/7a). My 1.3-acre garden has evolved quite a bit in the over 20 years I’ve lived on the property. I’ve taken down many ash trees (Faxinus species) due to the ash borer threat and added many new beds. I have both shade and sun and mostly dry soil. When I fall in love with new plants, I find a way to incorporate them in the garden while striving to maintain a cohesive design and flow.
I am very focused on layering and all-season interest, so it’s a joy for me when I see things blooming in December and January. I also adore my bird community. They have made themselves at home as they frequent the heated birdbath, take shelter in my shrubs and trees, and feast on my edible plants.
This year I added a moon gate to my garden that is made of stone. The moon gate echoes the many large boulders that exist naturally on the property and marks the entrance to the woodland trail. My hope is that garden visitors are moved emotionally or spiritually when they see and walk through the gate. I adore this new feature.
The flowers of this amethyst witch hazel (Hamamelis ‘Amethyst’, Zones 5–8) are beginning to uncurl their petals. Witch hazels can bloom right through the coldest parts of the year, with the petals curling tight in the coldest weather and unfurling again when it warms a little.
Climbing aster (Ampelaster carolinanus, Zones 6–9) is a late fall bloomer that can keep on going right into the first snowfalls.
Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora, Zones 5–11) is most celebrated for the reddish flush on new fronds in the spring, but the old fronds are also semi-evergreen, holding upright through the winter in milder climates and dying back if the cold gets too intense.
‘Barmstedt Gold’ witch hazel (Hamamelis ‘Barmstedt Gold’) blooms, with the moon gate visible behind it.
Bluebirds rest on a planter that has been decorated for the winter with cut branches and berries.
Early amethyst beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’, Zones 5–8) has bright berries that will persist into winter until the birds gobble them up.
Edgeworthia chrysantha (Zones 6–9) has beautiful, fragrant flowers in early spring, but the silky, silvery flower buds are also quite beautiful as they wait for winter to end.
Carol’s new moon gate is a stunning addition to the landscape that will look good every day of the year.
Aging flower heads of oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5–9) in the snow
A yellow-throated sparrow is one of the many birds that call Carol’s garden home.
Wonderful nature area, great pics of your shrubs and birds. Beautiful sanctuary'
Thank you for your kind words!
A spectacular group of crisp and well-composed photos! Carol: how much did you have to pay those bluebirds to sit and pose in your mixed evergreen bouquet in precisely the perfect positions? I supposed the heated birdbath may well have been payment enough. Not "for the birds" is that Moon Gate which begs us to see the compositions it frames from wherever it can be seen.. Footprints in the snow toward a roofed structure beyond is an irresistable vista. Please send another GPOD series when the gate can frame more of your delectable garden. We clearly have had a delicious first taste that leaves us wanting more, more more.
I agree the bluebirds positioned themselves perfectly. Very lucky to capture that moment. I promise to send more photos of the moongate in the garden!
Really beautiful, Carol. I love the 'Amethyst' witch hazel. I've not seen that cultivar before. And the moon gate.... how fortunate are you. And the bluebirds....
I am fortunate to enjoy my garden and happy to share it. Glad you enjoyed the virtual tour.
Such a beautiful collection of photos! The moon gate is truly magical. And love these glimpses of winter color and beauty. Thanks for sharing.
Your pics are lovely! I especially like the planter with the bluebirds on it.
I am loving your garden. What a fabulous photo of your container planting with the bluebirds. And your moongate. What a special addition to the garden. Thank you very much for sharing your garden photos. I'd love to see it in every season.🌱
I promise to send in more photos. I love sharing my garden in person and virtually!
Gorgeous moon gate! Gorgeous bluebirds! What more can I say?
You have a magically beautiful garden! Those bluebirds....so rare to see here in Pittsburgh...wow...I had to enlarge the photo on my computer to see if they were ornaments in the pot or real birds and they are REAL birds!
The moon gate....oooooooh.....Whoever designed and built it did a perfect job. I saved both photos of it to my Pinterest in my Gardens of Inspiration folder....what an amazing feature to add to your garden...all I want to do is walk through it to your woodland trail- it does indeed inspire a feeling of awe and mystery! I'm so impressed!
Thanks so much for your kind words!
The photo with the bluebirds! The beautiful moon gate- what an invitation to walk in the woods. Beautyberry- great color in winter, where could I fit one in my garden. Heated birdbath- tell us more!
White-throated sparrow? They started coming to our garden in winter about ten years ago, just one for several years, now sometimes three.
Yes, white-throated. I mis-identified it (still learning all the birds that visit). To heat the birdbath I use a portable heater designed for livestock. I keep it plugged in all winter long. If you search online for birdbath heater you'll find lots of options. I highly recommend one!
Carol - I enjoyed reading your gardening story and looking at all the photos. The moongate is a terrific feature, the bluebirds posing is more than charming, and the amethyst witch hazel is lovely and I hope scented.
Thank you for sharing!
The amethyst witch hazel.... that moongate..... those bluebirds.... Everything is magical!
Carol, I haven't been so mesmerized by photos of a garden in a long time. Your moongate is exquisite, it's simply perfect. The rock work is extraordinary. Then their are your beautiful plantings... and the birds! Your gardens are a sanctuary for all. Well done!!!
I am so flattered by your comments - thank you!
Carol, I liked every photo! I'm always looking for early bloomers, and am so happy to learn of the amethyst witch hazel! I'm not a big fan of the yellows of Mahonia and the more common witch hazels but I do appreciate their worth in the garden. Everything is beautiful, and I am so envious of those bluebirds!
Beautiful photos- I am also so envying those bluebirds! Looks like a good amount of native plants; 70% natives will ensure enough caterpillars for nesting :)
I think the sparrow is called a white-throated sparrow.
The bluebirds in the seasonal greens is one of the prettiest winter arrangements I have ever seen. The edgeworthia shot is gorgeous. I don't know what happened to Meander, but I miss her commenting on exceptional posts like yours.
Thanks so much for all the kind words. Thrilled you think of this post as spectacular and am glad everyone is enjoying the bluebird shot. They are amazing and I'm grateful they spend a lot of time in my garden.
enjoyed seeing your garden, and very nice photos. the moon gate is spectacular, wish I had one! the photo of the bluebirds is fabulous! thanks for sharing your garden!
The planter with the greeneries, berries and the blue birds is spectacular! Should be in front of a magazine!
You make me miss my withhazels in Portland!
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