Winters in Ithaca are notoriously long and cold, so when Peter Marks, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, visited a winter garden at Cambridge University in the UK, he recommended one for Cornell Botanic Gardens. The garden was designed such that plants within would provide winter interest and the space would contain a courtyard for gatherings. The garden was supported by a gift from Whitey Mullestein (Cornell Class of 1932), completed and dedicated in 2001.
The garden contains over 700 plants chosen for their interesting bark texture, bark color, unusual growth habits, winter fruit, cones, evergreen foliage and interested structural form
The original trees and dwarf conifers in this garden have grown and the garden has changed considerably over the years. Opportunities have arisen for diversifying the plant palette and extending seasonal interest by planting additional dwarf conifers, broadleaf evergreens, grasses, hellebores, and other perennials, and early spring flowering bulbs. Since the younger stems of shrubby plants like dogwoods have the brightest color, coppicing, or cutting plants back close to the ground, is done every 2 -3 years.