I just looked out the window at my landscape. There’s no doubt about it. Winter is here. As I write this, there’s no snow, although some is in the short term forecast.
There’s not a leaf to be seen, except those Mother Nature piled up in a corner of the patio to await my disposal. Sure, there’s tall, tan ornamental grass blowing in the wind. There are plenty of evergreens and even a couple of river birch with exfoliating bark, but what else can I do to make my landscape more interesting this winter?
Let’s start with the material at hand. I’m actually a leg up on many landscapes. Ornamental grass is probably the number one material used in local landscapes to add winter interest. It turns brown, is often tufted with seedheads and is tall enough to peer above most snowbanks to vary the color from white. The evergreens are a nice touch, but I don’t recommend planting a whole yard of evergreens or that will be as boring as a sea of snow.
Interesting bark on deciduous trees is another nice touch. I chose river birch because it’s not prone to the pests that feast on white and paper birches. You lose some of the color and brightness of the bark (it’s more of a brown color) but it tends to exfoliate more. Other trees with interesting bark include paperbark maple, cherry, sycamore, European hornbeam and shagbark hickory. The bark on these trees is so interesting that you may look forward to fall defoliation so you can enjoy the bark.
Oh yes, I have one big holly with its red berries. Hollies are a symbol of Christmas and the winter holidays. Remember, you need separate male and female hollies to produce berries.
Putting out squirrel-proof bird feeders will also add color and activity to your winter landscape. Placing holiday lights and other winter interest things on your deck and patio can beat the drabness of winter. Select weather-resistant furniture or garden art for your patio. It may have to be a different set from the summer set you just put away. Perhaps an old set that you didn’t get around to throwing away will work.
Finally, containerized winter hardy plants may also add color and interest to your landscape. If some are in terra cotta pots, remember that these pots can break in winter, so wrap them in bubble wrap and pack them in mulch. This is one time when a mulch volcano is OK.
See, when you shed the defeatist attitude and replace it with a little creative thinking, you can really make your landscape look quite nice for winter. Granted, it may not be the grand summer garden that you’re used to, but it will be far from winter drab.
A number of the ideas proposed above can be done now. Those involving plant materials may have to wait for next season. If so, put your ideas in your garden journal now so you can just look them up in spring rather than racking your brain to remember what you were thinking of six months ago.