Seasonal Tips & Trends
Plan Now for a Winter Interest Garden Next Year
You have given the garden one last clean up before you hang up your gloves and spade for the winter. Now, as you head inside for the long months of cold, you look over your shoulder and notice the landscape has its usual winter doldrums. But it does not have to be this way. Why not perk-up those views from within? A winter interest garden might be just what you need to get you through those long cold days.
Although you will have to wait until spring to plant your garden, it is not too early to start planning for next year. Winter gardening teaches us the value of natural silhouettes, forms, patterns, and light. It is an ideal time to take note of shapes, contrast, and textures. Without the distraction of leaves and flowers, the true shape of trees and shrubs can be appreciated. As you observe your garden now, look for plants that offer peeling (exfoliating) bark, unusual colors, winter flowers and beautiful shapes. Take stock of what you already have. You may have a few prized specimens, which add the characteristics you are looking for. It is a good idea to see plants in late fall and winter before you add them to your landscaping. Take trips to parks, gardens and nurseries so that you can see the plants you are contemplating in their prime form.
For the most enjoyment of your winter interest garden, choose a sight you will see as you come and go and consider windows you will be looking out of during the winter months. Remember to include in your plan those structures that become obvious in winter because they are no longer hidden by foliage. You may not want to look at heat pumps, garbage caddies, and electric meters all winter. Do not plan your garden for areas where heat pumps, dryer vents, and furnace outlets will pump heat and exhaust on your plants. Warm air and exhaust on cold plants is a deadly combination.
Winter is a great time to develop the "bones" or permanent architectural structures for your garden. Consider the placement of sidewalks, walls, fences, and arbors. These well-placed structures give the garden a thoroughly thought- out, permanent, professional look. Walkways will beckon you to travel down them; walls and fences will set visual boundaries and can be the true spine of a garden. Arbors, trellises and benches look stunning with a coating of snow on them and can enhance a winter interest garden beautifully.
As you plan your winter interest garden, remember this design theory: If you design a garden for winter, the rest of the year will take care of itself. With this in mind, remember that some of the best winter characteristics of some plants are hidden during the rest of the year. Leaves will cover unusually colored or exfoliating bark in spring and summer as well as hide and soften strong horizontal, vertical and angular lines, leaving you beautiful greens with which to plan and plant your spring and summer garden.
Neatness in a winter garden is essential. In summer, plants spill onto walkways beckoning us to travel down them. Small weeds go unnoticed in summer's wealth. But in a winter garden everything shows. This includes piles of leaves, branches, or even the smallest amount of litter. The winter interest garden must be cleared of all this debris to avoid looking untidy.
We tend to think of the winter as a flowerless, drab time of year but there are many cold weather blooming plants that can be incorporated into the winter interest garden. Here is a list of some winter interest plants that will have you and your garden actually anticipating even the frostiest days.