Tips for a Spectacular Winter Garden

See how to make your garden look good even in winter when nothing is blooming

  1. Trees – Evergreen trees are the obvious choice for winter interest. I really like blue spruce, white spruce, cedar and fir. But don’t forget about these deciduous varieties that are known for their interesting bark or shape. Some trees to seriously consider include Stewartia Pseudocamellia (zone 5-9), Paperbark Maple (zone 4-8), Japanese Maple (zone 5-9 depending on variety), River Birch and Paper Birch.
  2. Snowdrops Galanthus and Winter Aconite are bulbs that bloom in late winter or early spring when there is still snow on the ground. Both are easy to grow and will multiple year after year. Plant them in well-drained soil about 3” apart and only 2-3” deep. After you first plant them, water them well to settle the soil around the bulbs. After that, just make sure you allow all the foliage to die back naturally as the leaves will store food for the next years’ blooms. No need for additional fertilizer if you add compost to your garden beds regularly (once or twice a year).

  1. Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) is a perennial that generally starts blooming in January, or whenever the snow has melted enough so that the blooms can push through the snow. They are very hardy plants and prefer moist soils,that drain well. Plant hellebores in partial shade in zones 5-8.
  2. Ornamental Grasses add wonderful texture and color to any winter garden. I have a huge Miscanthus in my garden and it looks good the majority of the winter. In summer, the plant is a variegated green, but in winter, it changes to a soft tan color with large plumes that wave back and forth in the breeze. If you have a lot of heavy snow or heavy winds, this plant will probably start to look poor in mid-winter. If you are able, just cut it back at that time, otherwise, I think it’s worth leaving it uncut for the winter.

  1. Include plants with large seed heads in your landscape. The birds will love eating the seeds when they become ripe and the seed heads will look good for a while in your winter garden. Echinacea (Coneflower), Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan), Thistle, Echinops, and some late blooming allium are good choices.
  2. Faux Planters – If you have patio areas or garden areas where plants won’t grow, why not get some sturdy weather resistant pots and fill them with branches and berry sprigs. They can be real or fake, as long as they look natural. Some of the stems can even be spray painted for added color. Make sure the planters are weighed down with rocks or concrete so they won’t blow over in winter. Also, consider grouping empty, brightly colored pots together to create winter interest.


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