By Jane Milliman
No matter how hot the summer or how golden the fall, winter eventually arrives. It’s a time to slow down and reflect on the triumphs and challenges of the past year, but it can also be a time for beauty in the garden—just as any other season.
When planting and planning in your garden, keep winter in mind. Think about structure—the bones of the garden. This could mean an evergreen hedge, dark and bold throughout the year, or it could relate to your hardscaping—walls, patios, walks, and so on.
Another design element to consider is texture. Sure, you have evergreens, but they’re not all the same. Some chamaecyparis (false cypress) have feathery “needles,” while rhododendron leaves are thick and coarse. Instead of cutting everything back, leave some grasses and seed heads to add even more texture to the garden.
While you consider structure and texture, don’t forget color. Evergreens come in a wide array of colors. Certain shrubs, such as some dogwoods and willows, have bright yellow, red, or orange branches in winter. There are the wonderful berries of the hollies, and many other trees and shrubs. And of course, bark is beautiful.
If you have been paying attention to adding structure, texture, and color, the birds arrive. Birds can hide in dense evergreens and eat the seeds of certain plants you leave standing. Plus, of course, they love berries.
If you have a cold frame or a greenhouse, you can keep harvesting greens, including lettuce, kale, and chard, deep into winter.
The best thing about the winter garden is when it starts to display those longed-for signs of spring. So plant snowdrops, winter aconite, and crocuses this fall. Plant them in places that warm up early and are close to where you often walk, so you see them. You will be thankful you did!