In the landscape profession we manipulate nature to create our own little havens, but nothing is more breathtaking than wild nature. I just returned from a winter wonderland in Yosemite Valley and I am always amazed at the beauty that is around each turn. In wintertime, after the New Year, Yosemite Valley is quiet and peaceful. The fallen tree branches and yellow meadow are cloaked in a crisp white icing of snow. You begin to appreciate the shapes and forms of boulders, delicate tree branches, and the lacy patchwork of snowflakes sealed onto car windows. The waterfalls were flowing, creating a cobweb of frozen doilies framing the base of each fall. The show-stopping dogwoods(Cornus nuttallii) that are in full bloom in spring were mere skeletons, asleep for the winter. Instead, the boulders dotting each side of the Merced River, covered with a cap of pure white snow stole the show as the water flowed around the base of each one, revealing the dark granite beneath.
I am always inspired by the beauty here. It reminds me of the importance of established trees, the grand affect large canopies create for the scale of what is beneath and above. It takes years for them to grow large enough to create impact in a garden and provide a sense of scale to the house and the rest of the landscape. This trip also reminded me of the beauty of a simple element. It is easy to add too much. If there is a beautiful water element in your garden, let it have space. Create continuity with plant material in large swaths throughout the garden to highlight a focal point and add a sense of calm. Mother Nature has lessons to teach us all as we think about our own landscapes.
The Ahwahnee Hotel dining room is at a grand scale, mimicking the feeling you have standing in Yosemite Valley amidst the towering mountains.