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Winter Garden Stories

What type of story does your winter garden tell you? Does each chapter tell the same story over and over or reveal something different to you each month of the year? The winter garden is the easiest one in which to find all the mistakes you have made, and is also the easiest one to view and determine all the changes you need to make.

First look out every window in the house into the garden and take notes about what you see. This is the time of year we spend the most time enjoying our garden from inside the house, so these are important views. Next, put on your boots and winter coat and head outside. Walk all around the garden, really taking your time, and take notes on what you see. Take winter garden pictures.

Editing your garden
Now the hard part: determining what changes to make the following year. The easiest things to view and review objectively in the winter are the edges or shapes of the landscape beds, how they relate to the turf and the presence of evergreen, and the deciduous trees and shrubs and how they relate to each other. The bed lines should be smooth, not choppy, and the change from mulch to turf should be distinct. The trees and shrubs as we see them in winter should seem as balanced now as they do in the summer. Last but not least, you should have some color in your winter garden, not just bare gray stems.

Adding color to your story
Color in the winter garden is easier than it sounds: there are all kinds of trees and shrubs that have showy bark, fruit, stems, or unusual character that seem barely noticeable for most of the year, but become very obvious in the winter.

Trees to consider for winter character are crabapple, hawthorn, stewartia, Persian parrotia, and paperbark maple.

Shrubs to consider are red and yellow twig dogwoods, hardy camellias, deciduous holly, witch hazel, winter hazel, Japanese kerria, and raspberries.

The list of evergreens for the winter garden could be endless, but a few of my favorites are Japanese sky pencil holly, American and foster holly, lacebark pine, limber pine, and weeping white pine.

There are also many plants categorized as dwarf conifers that are excellent for adding interest to the winter garden, such as the many different false cypress, as well as many dwarf pine and spruce that are available.

Some perennials and ornamental grasses provide winter interest by flowering in the winter or the ornamental value added by the dormant foliage. The Hellebore or Lenten rose can start blooming as early as late February and typically blooms into May.

Even though winter is our toughest season, don’t let that stop you from gardening. Make sure you have a winter garden story to share with others. Enjoy and make use of this beautiful time of the year. Visit public gardens near home or while visiting family and friends.

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