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Winter in the Garden

Winter is the season for dreams. For a passionate gardener, it’s the time to imagine new landscape designs and plantings for the growing season. Life may be more abundant in the springtime, but winter reveals a layer that can easily be missed if one retreats indoors and hibernates through the colder months. We must not overlook the red tailed hawk that perches on the garden bench for a moment on his way south for the winter, or the running cedar and green mosses that shine a little brighter in celebration of the cold. Whether we are dreaming, planning for or simply waiting it out until spring, we can continue to immerse ourselves in the abundance of our natural world.

Our founder and CEO, Will Massie grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he and his sister explored the woods, their yard and garden and all that flourishes in the colder months. “There are so many things that are more beautiful in the winter. As kids, we would always walk through the woods and our father taught us how to identify trees by their bark. He taught us how to build fires and we spent a lot of time together playing winter sports, ice skating and skiing,” says Will.

It’s no surprise that winter and summer are Will’s favorite seasons. The two opposite extremes call for different daily rituals, sports, activities, and different ways to nurture ourselves creatively. We can always build that roaring fire, cozy up under a warm blanket and soak up some much-needed sunshine on that unseasonably warm day we sometimes enjoy in Virginia. These are the kind of moments that sparked the creation of McKinnon and Harris; The ideal that has kept us connected to nature and to one another.

Black and White image of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Co-founders Anne and Will playing outdoors as children
Image of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Massie Family photo archives; Co-founders Anne and Will playing outdoors as children

Inspired by Will’s passion for winter, we asked him to share some of his greatest inspirations, thoughts and tips for preparing your garden and fully enjoying the season:

1. Clean, sharpen and organize your garden tools. Will has eight sets of garden shears that are usually in need of a little TLC by the end of the year. Will’s favorite shears are Japanese Okatsune. “They are incredibly sharp and really precise, which helps you make really clean cuts. The shears truly elevate pruning to an art form!”

2. Prepare your plants to withstand the cold. Will is very passionate about his collection of bonsai trees. “I have a thirty five year old Trident Maple and a hundred-year old Korean Hornbeam. I’m just their current caretaker and it’s so rewarding to trim and shape them. I love the way bonsai add a sense of contemplation and age to a garden,“ says Will. Before the temperatures drop too low, he digs holes in his back garden and plants the pots in the soil to protect the root systems from freezing. Take special precaution with potted plants as they are more susceptible to frost damage.

Co-founder Will Massie's Bonsai plant
Co-founder Will Massie's Garden and Bonsai plant

3. Gather friends for an al fresco cocktail party in the garden. Light plenty of tea lights, offer a classic hot toddy and have a stack of warm blankets nearby to keep your guests cozy. “McKinnon and Harris Deck Blankets were inspired by past family events when we lingered outdoors as long as possible. Our grandparents rarely ventured outside without a blanket wrapped around their shoulders, even with only a slight chill in the air,” recalls Will. Crafted in Italy, our blankets are the ultimate in outdoor performance luxury and the magic ingredient for extending outdoor time. See more ideas in our recent journal post Warming Up Your Outdoor Space.

4. Take walks and observe all that thrives in the cold, like the glorious winter berry that bursts forth in full color just in time for the holiday season.

The Massie family gathered around an outdoor fireplace
McKinnon and Harris soft and cozy fringe deck blankets

5. Use outdoor furniture protective covers, so that when the weather allows, you can quickly remove them and enjoy a moment outdoors. “After a snowfall, we just push the snow off the covers to reveal pristine cushions underneath and on a snowy day, it's like being in Zermatt.'' Our furniture covers are slightly vented and the material breathes, so it’s the perfect solution for storing everything in place.

6. If you have young children or grandchildren, teach them to plant things inside. Creating a terrarium together is a wonderful way to encourage a reverence for growing things. Will always had terrariums as a child with mosses that formed a “little magical, miniature habitat.” He bought an orange tree at the local garden store when he was 12, placed in a sunny spot in his childhood home, and it’s thriving to this day in the offices of McKinnon and Harris. Will says it’s like a member of the family.

McKinnon and Harris outdoor furniture protective covers

7. Curl up in the living room or library with a book and dream of future plans for your lawn and garden. One of Will’s favorite landscape designers is Jacques Wirtz, and he often refers to his books for inspiration. The Wirtz Private Garden by Marco Valdivia is an inspiring book on the subtle effects of light, form and space throughout the seasons.

The Lynn Garden at Ascott House; Designed by Jacques Wirtz. Lois GoBe / Alamy Stock Photo.
deCamp Lune Collection on a screen porch with a fireplace burning
The Lynn Garden at Ascott House; Designed by Jacques Wirtz. Lois GoBe / Alamy Stock Photo.

Whatever your wintertime traditions and activities may be, we hope that you will continue to discover creative ways to fully enjoy nature with your friends and family and use your outdoor living space all winter long.

duVal-Alexander collection overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains at sunset
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