Most gardens are at their best in spring when blooms and leaves are bursting out all over. Colors are brilliant and flowers and foliage are lush and verdant. But the garden in winter can offer a different kind of beauty, more contemplative and serene. There’s something majestic, even haunting, about a landscape covered in snow and ice. Take a look at your garden this winter and see what beauty you can find and maybe enhance for next winter.
In the introduction to her book The Winter Garden author and gardener Val Bourne writes, “When our deciduous shrubs and trees shed their leaves they reveal twiggy contours and fine tracery as delicate as Lalique crystal … This would go unnoticed in normal light, but in winter the sun sinks to its lowest point in the sky and pinpoints everything with a sharp clarity…” In the winter garden, form takes precedence with texture, color and movement adding touches of interest.
Some fantastic winter garden components are trees with unusual branch structure like the red twig dogwood with its bright red branches reaching upward like a fountain. Evergreens like spruces and pines are perennial winter favorites. If you’re so inclined, these can also be trimmed and shaped into interesting forms. Shrubs like winterberry and red or black chokeberry have colorful berries that attract birds. Birch trees with their distinctive papery bark and maple trees like the cinnamon colored paperbark maple add interesting textures.
Winter aconite, Lenten rose and witch hazel are winter flowering plants that add beauty and color. Other decorative touches can be added with seedpods that also attract birds and add movement as well as grasses like big blue stem or switch grass. For further sensory interest you can add chimes, mirrors or pinwheels.
If you don’t have a large garden, you can still add touches of winter interest to any of your outdoor areas with containers. In Emma Hardy’s The Winter Garden (yes, two authors have books by the same name), she lays out 35 projects step-by-step for planting containers for outdoor and indoor use. Plant a trunkful of grasses or force colorful hyacinth bulbs in glass jars.