Winter Landscapes at Montpelier


There is no argument that Montpelier is one of the most beautiful properties in Virginia. Spring is especially appreciated as it promises a colorful, vibrant natural beauty that matures as the season turns to summer. When summer’s warmth gives way to autumn’s refreshing coolness, vivid fall colors of red, orange and yellow replace summer’s green leaves. Throughout the year, these three seasons provide Montpelier’s visitors a lasting impression of a property graced with an abundance of scenic beauty. And then there is winter. Often the least favorite season of the year, winter may actually prove to be the most beautiful, generous season of all. Winter is all about honesty. There are no frills and no distractions. It is a no-nonsense time of year; a black and white season. Hardwoods are stripped of their once-verdant leaves that danced in the mildest breezes. Flowering plants no longer boast colorful, eye-catching appeal. Nature is reduced to the bare essentials.

Who can deny, though, the awesome beauty of an ancient oak stretching out its thick dark limbs against a background of sparkling white snow or strikingly blue sky? In the deep woods, one can clearly see the forest for the trees; the wide spectrum of each form, structure and size is laid bare before us. Contours of hills and ravines are unhindered by leaves of the abundant herbaceous and woody plants. Bird and squirrel nests are now visible where once they were hidden away by dense foliage.

In the garden, spent, brittle seed pods rattle in the wind. Shed snake skins threaded through thorny climbing rose bushes come into unnervingly sharp focus. Cicada skins hopelessly cling to boney hydrangea stems. Our attention can take a step back from these newly revealed treasures to freely dwell on the contours of the formal garden without the overwhelming presence of flowering plants. Another step back reveals an expanding landscape, as views easily extend through groves of trees to the historic temple or stately mansion beyond. Now, the majestic evergreens, each unique and beautifully sited, take center stage. Visitors can revel in the surprisingly wide range of greens provided by those specimen trees. The bluish-green of Atlas cedars, the deep dark green of Madison’s cedar-of-Lebanon, and the yellow-tipped green of the golden arborvitae are only a sample of that spectrum. Glossy Burford hollies and the duller, darker boxwoods boldly claim their place in the landscape.

Winter is a humble season, needing no advantage to display the strength and fortitude existing within the natural landscape. It is not flashy, choosing instead to enthrall and enchant in a quiet and subtle way. A sense of peace and serenity envelopes Montpelier at this time of year as winter exposes and enhances the ever-present natural beauty of this compelling landscape.


Sandy Mudrinich, Montpelier Horticulture