As I write this in mid-May, I am watching and listening to the remnants of 8” of snow melt off the roof while I warm up from the 23º low. As freakish as this is, the snow makes the landscape beautiful! Not in and of itself, but how it defines branches, leaves and subtle rises and dips in the yard that are normally hard to see. These are things to consider when you are designing your landscape. Who doesn’t love snow outlining a bare tree branch or gracing a stone wall? Incorporate plants and hardscaping that will be visually attractive all year long.
Plants for winter interest
Sometimes in the fall, I cut back the dead flowers on my perennials and pull out the annuals. I am always sorry when I do this, because when it snows, there is only a field of white to look at. If I had put off cleanup until spring, flower stalks with interesting seed pods would poke out adding texture to the yard. They also catch the low winter sun and cast curious shadows. There is so much more to look at! Put plants where you can see them as you come into the house and from rooms you are in during the day. Unless you are out in the lower 40 on winter days, don’t plant there. Make your winter garden accessible to indoor viewers.
Design for contrast
Consider height, shape, structure, texture and color for your choices. Evergreen trees, shrubs and ground covers should be at the top of your list. They are beautiful year round, can change color to purple, red or bronze in winter, and are a foundation of garden design. The large variety of species can satisfy most of the criteria for a visually interesting winter garden. Use deciduous shrubs and trees with intricate branches that will contrast with a snowy background or a steel blue sky. Peeling bark catches snow and sun the same way, and colorful twigs and branches are a welcome sight on a dreary day. Ornamental grasses are a beautiful sight year round. In winter the seedheads wave high above the snow and attract birds. They also add a bit of psychological warmth as they turn brown. Sedum groundcovers and shrubs with berries add more color. Sedums usually turn bronze or red to contrast with snow, and red or purple berries light up in the low-lying sun. Color is so important in winter!
Hardscaping for winter interest
Decks, patios, walkways, gazebos, stone walls, yard art, trellises and fences all add to the landscape in winter. A gazebo can be a focal point at the end of a walkway lined with textured plantings. I have a wire fence that shows off its rectangular segments after a snowstorm. Even the round fence posts have perfect circles of snow on top of them to contrast with the wood of the post. So I’m still watching the snow melt and drinking hot tea, but now is the time to plan and plant your yard to enjoy it year round. Visit a local botanical garden or a nursery with demonstration gardens to see what works in your area. You will come away inspired!
Your winter garden and landscaping plans
How have you planned your outdoor space for all around enjoyment? What native plants in your area have served you best? Tell us about it in the comments section.