Winter Interest Never Looked So Good
As the last leaf hits the ground and the last Canadian goose makes its way south, it is time to
start your winter garden. Pardon me? A winter garden? Yes. Instead of sitting there crying
silent tears for a gardens' end, it is time to rejoice in the prospect of a garden that will offer
interest through the depths of the cold weather. It is no longer accepted to just level your plants
and call it a wrap. Today, gardeners are looking to create new looks in their garden and adding
some drama simply by incorporating the changing seasons. Less is more. The less you cut
back in the fall, the more it leaves natural habitats for wildlife that stays for the winter and helps
protect plants. Also some plants can act a wind break to create a micro climate for marginally
hardy material. With a few tricks of the trade, you too can enjoy a little winter comfort from your
garden to hold you over until the arrival of spring. A truly four season paradise in your own yard.
Besides just plants, it is a good idea to have something to accompany them to add some height
and texture to your winter garden. Urns, statues, fences, odalisques, arbours and/or boulders are
great choices, these types of additions will ensure consistency and unity through the seasons,
providing they will not get damaged or interfere with any snow removal. A back yard would be a
better option if these are a concern. This is also a good trick to minimize work in the fall and saves your back. Start by deciding what needs to be brought indoors. Cement statues and cement pots need to be treated with a few coats of water resistant sealer or they will break from absorbing moisture during freezing and thawing that will occur. Anchor anything that could be blown over by winter winds or disassemble and store. Cover any heavy clay, stone or cement bird baths with weatherproof canvas instead of a plastic tarp to help minimize a possible eye sore.
Once you have decided which ornaments will stay out and which ones will be stored, you can then decide which plants will be cut back and which ones will persist. Evergreens and shrubs are the backbone to every winter show; use their height, width and texture to help decide which perennials will accompany them for the winter. Grasses, seed heads, branches, bark, berries and vines are great to keep in mind as an exquisite forefront to coniferous specimens. Also, consider how the frost and snow will look on different plant material and surfaces in your garden. Once you have decide what you like and dislike, the cutbacks become a lot easier. If you find that there are gaps in the flow through your yard, you can always move around some urns or add a few more ornaments.
Allowing berries and seed heads to persist are an important part of feeding our wildlife through the rough spells of our winters. People often don't realize how hard it is for our birds and furry friends to find enough food after snowstorms or ice rain. Animals will remain in an area that food is plentiful, and in turn, helps keep a natural balance. Their presence also adds interest and often times, some interesting entertainment. This is purely a fun project that has no borders or limitations, (which in this day and age is pretty rare). There really is no bad winter interest because anything that breaks up all the ice and snow is truly welcome isn't it? Hopefully theses suggestions will help inspire you to get wild and crazy this winter.
Evergreens: Any and all, you cannot have too much coniferous material. A mixture of different ones is great for creating textural interests.
Topiaries are always an interesting addition.
Deciduous Shrubs: Late blooming, berry bearing, structural and striking barks are recommended.
Deciduous trees: Are great for adding height, textural interest from their bark and interesting branching. Different trees have different growth habits and each one offering vertical and often even horizontal interest.
Grasses and Perennials: Grasses tend to do better if not cut back in the fall. The foliage helps to protect the crown from rot. Any perennial that tends to be hollow in the center are usually left along with succulents. Be aware that leaving seed heads increases the amount of self-seeding.
Vines with persistent seed heads and berries such as Virginia creeper and Clematis are recommended not to cut back.