story by claire schuchman gardening nature's way... A pond can provide sanctuary for turtles and frogs that eat pests in the garden. Below: Ice-covered rhododendron. Harry Lauder's Walking Stick winter in the garden inter has settled into the urban forest on Shadowlawn Avenue. The leaves are gone, trees are silhouetted against the blue sky and gnarled bark, hardly noticed in summer, takes center stage at this time of year. It's early morning in my garden. The leaves of the rhododendron are hanging low and curled in, telling me the temperature has dropped below freezing. Actually it's well below freezing, at just 9 degrees. There is ice on the pond; our small school of goldfish huddles together as if trying to keep warm. Winter is a peaceful time in the garden. The plants rest; since the leaves are gone, we have a view of the skeleton, or bones, of the garden. It is now that the designer is able to see possibilities that didn't even seem to exist while the garden was heavy with foliage. Combinations of deciduous and evergreen plant material come to life. Gorgeous red twigs of the shrubby dogwood glow in front of a stand of rhododendron, with a sparkling white blanket of snow underneath, or like the intriguing silhouette of the branches of Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (corylus avellana Contorta). At winter's end, the catkins will appear, adorning this small tree like ornaments on a Christmas tree, dangling and swaying in the wind, signaling the change in seasons that is soon to come. A healthy garden is balanced and sustainable. Simply put, this is a garden that has a nice mix of plant material, a balance of trees, shrubs and perennials. Both deciduous and evergreen plants exist in this garden. This garden works in 44 mtl january/february 2010 Part two of a four-Part SerieS cooperation with Mother Nature, and the gardener lets Her do the hard work by merely aiding and abetting the natural course. This garden feeds the soil, and in turn the soil feeds the plants. In this garden, the birds, attracted to berries, eat the pests off the leaves of perennials. The snakes appreciate the rocks put out in the sun and in return eat small rodents and other pests. The squirrels provide entertainment, as they leap from branch to branch or scurry about to bury an acorn and thus plant the forest's next generation. The hawk loves to watch the squirrels and other small furry creatures and swoops in for a meal. But what can the gardener do to help the garden be healthy in the winter? The shade garden will not suffer from the fallen leaves, as those plants seem to have evolved to accept the annual leaf drop. The forest floor is replenished every year with the carbon material from the fallen leaves, and the micro organisms and worms use this carbon material for food, leaving behind the nitrogen rich worm castings. (Did you know that some worms can travel up to eight feet underground, opening up the soil to air, water and nutrients as they leave behind little tunnels?) It's the sunny garden, with lots of perennials that may suffer from being covered by leaves. If a wet layer of heavy leaves smothers the crowns of the plants, they are susceptible to rot, which allows fungal, bacterial and viral disease to move in. Move the leaves away from the crowns of those plants, and you will have solved the problem for now. What other problems might the gardener be able to help with? There may