It’s the cold winter months, and you’re looking out the window at your once vibrant and colorful garden only to see patches of brown twigs and barren ground. UGH. You think to yourself...well it’s winter season, there’s nothing I can do this time of year to make it more appealing. While the idea of enjoying a charming winter garden seems unlikely, a garden in winter is not only possible, but it can be stunningly beautiful as well! During the winter you’ll want to highlight the key features of your garden and play into the shapes, textures, colors, and contrasts that make your seemingly dormant garden POP with interest! We’ve listed ways to preserve your garden’s allurement and keep you smiling throughout the long winter season.
Foliage, Evergreens, and Bark Interest
All gardeners are aware that one of the most dramatic changes to your garden comes when the trees lose their leaves, and other flowering bulbs and plants have faded. However, this means your garden should take on another look with impressive foliage in shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple. Foliage can provide color, fragrance, and various textures and shapes that can play an important role in your winter garden.
Trees and shrubs are common elements in fall gardens due to their dazzling foliage or late blooms; however, they can also give interest during the winter. Evergreens are a great enhancement to any winter garden as they provide not only texture and height, but also a feeling of holiday cheer when gazing upon them. Evergreen is a plant that has leaves throughout the year and is always green. And with a blanket of snow, these green trees and shrubs become a fortress of white spires and battlements. Here is a list of some of the best evergreen plants to include in your winter garden design:
- Mountain Laurel
Another favorite among gardeners looking for winter color and fragrance is witch hazel. Many people grow this shrub in a location where they can enjoy not only its beauty but also its sweet aroma that actually becomes more potent in the winter. Another plus is they're virtually maintenance-free and resistant to most pests and diseases. Most species of witch hazel have yellow or red blooms.
When choosing trees and shrubs, you should also pay attention to the unique characteristics offered by their exfoliating bark. The bark that peels or is patterned with intriguing twig color can be rather captivating during those dreary winter days. River birch, whitebark birch, and paperback maples give interest with their peeling bark. If you’re looking for colored bark, the red-twig dogwoods and mahogany-colored crabapples deliver an additional splash of color to your winter garden.
Berries, Seed Heads, & Ornamental Grasses
Although the majority of flowers may be seldom during winter, their berries are often plentiful. Berries give color and interest with shades of red, purple, and yellow. One noteworthy and well-known holiday plant is the holly, which is rich with berries and their spiky leaves add interest to the landscape. Many viburnums keep their berries throughout the early winter. Hawthorns have beautiful flowers in the spring and fruit in the winter (which are edible and attract birds). This shrub also has thorns that catch snow on their twiggy outlines, which draws attention to the observer’s eye.
Seed heads from the existing flowers in warmer months will also add to your winter garden. Flowers that will keep their seed heads include hydrangeas, sedums, rudbeckias, and coneflowers. They hold their seed heads throughout the winter, which adds a bit of contrast and collects pillows of snow to create little dots of interest in your garden.
Flowering ornamental grasses also provide structure, texture, volume, and color when growing a winter garden. Cool-season ornamental grasses take over once fall-blooming has creased, and many remain evergreen during the winter. These may include the northern sea oats, fescues, tufted hairgrass, and moor grass.
Winter garden plants do offer exceptional beauty during the bitterly cold months which may suffice for some gardeners. Although, adding garden accessories such as benches, fountains, arbors, and statues will draw attention from the onlooker and will give the garden key features which to recall. These accents should be weather-resistant and make strong statements. However, with any strong statement piece, you must use these sparingly to avoid a cluttered appearance.
Outside lights such as Christmas lights, spotlights, lanterns, etc. in the landscape can offer further enjoyment while highlighting focal points.
Now that you know what can be grown in your garden over the winter, you can get started with designing and planting a winter garden that fits your needs, climate, and landscape. Gone are the days of feeling the winter blues and being deprived of your garden. A winter garden can be filled with interesting features that can make any guest feel like they’re walking through a winter wonderland. If you need more inspiration for your winter garden, check out this video where Laura from Garden Answer gives us a tour of her gorgeous winter garden!