By Jane Milliman
You may think of the garden in winter as dreary, but you can follow some simple guidelines that maximize the beauty of your surroundings.
Most gardeners love having birds in their gardens — and willingly provide food, shelter, and water to attract them. Winterberry holly (above and right) is a good start. This stand of winterberry holly is the perfect feeding spot: Birds can perch on the taller trees nearby while waiting to feed on berries. But predators can’t hide, thanks to the absence of densely planted trees and shrubs.
You won’t find a lot of woody plants that bloom in winter (or very late fall or early spring). But one of them is witch hazel, which is often fragrant, as well as beautiful.
Structure, often called the “bones” of the garden, is important. When snow blankets the landscape, hardscape and plant forms shine, and basic design is laid bare. Try taking a picture of your garden during the growing season and converting it to black and white so you can assess its shapes without the distraction of bright colors. You can easily do this with a smartphone.
With its strong stone accents, clean lines, and symmetrical setup, this same landscape looks great blanketed in snow.
When it comes to structure, evergreens are practically an essential in the winter garden. They provide habitat, look beautiful in snow, and come in an array of colors, often stunning.
Not every perennial needs to be cut back or “cleaned up” in fall. Ornamental grasses, decorative seed heads, or pods often look great straight through winter — and birds benefit from them as well.
No winter garden is complete without berries. Although reds are plentiful, you can find other colors. Winterberry holly sports delightful orange and yellow fruit in addition to red. Snowberry comes with white or soft-pink berries, depending on the variety. Purple beautyberries are a vivid treat, and tend to hang on at least until the beginning of winter. And some viburnums produce blue fruits, as well as the more common red.
When planning your garden, think about this: Most winters go on a wee bit longer than we like. Plant some hellebores, winter aconite, and snowdrops. Chances are good they rear their pretty heads when there’s still snow on the ground — and you’ll be quite happy to see them.