Here in Indiana, winter lasts a long time. Make sure your garden brings you joy even in winter. Here are our top tips for creating a garden that looks great—with snow or without.
Frame a view from the window.
Remember that you can’t see plants that are directly below the window when you’re inside, so focus on big combinations farther from the house. We especially like using big sweeps of ornamental grasses and high-contrast combinations like red-twig dogwood or winterberries set in front of evergreens.
Place bird feeders and bird baths where you can easily see the visitors from the window. You’ll get the best birdwatching, and your cats will thank you.
Create vignettes where you walk.
There’s no point in planting tiny snowdrops and winter-blooming hellebores if you’re never going to get close enough to see them. Instead, concentrate these winter jewels close to the front walk or paths you use frequently in winter.
If your garden contains only perennials and annuals, you’ll have nothing to look at when they die back. Add some shrubs or trees to give your garden some backbone. Evergreens are great, but also consider woody plants with interesting bark, like coral-bark maples (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’), ninebark shrubs (Physocarpus opulifolius), or oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia).
Structure may take the form of man-made objects like walls, trellises, and arches, too.
Choose plants that fill multiple roles.
The smaller the garden, the more important that plants contribute in every season. So in addition to winter interest, plants should offer flowers for pollinators, fruit or seeds for wildlife, great fall color, interesting structure, fragrance, or excellent habitat.
Some of our favorites for the winter garden that perform well in other seasons include:
- Winterberry (native Ilex verticillata cvs.)
- Nest spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’)
- ‘Golden Mop’ false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’)
- Red- and yellow-twig dogwood (native Cornus sericea cultivars.)
- Switchgrass (native Panicum virgatum)
- Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora cvs.)
- Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis cvs.)
*cvs. = cultivated varieties of these species (cultivars)
Pick garden art that can take the freeze.
Human made objects offer contrast to to natural forms and help bring them into focus. Unfortunately, nearly all ceramics—statuary, birdbaths, and pots—must be taken in during the winter.
Instead, choose a metal birdbath that can stay out all year or a brightly colored bench to serve as a focal point. Metal tuteurs or arches can lend much-needed height to the winter landscape.
If you leave out your planters, be sure to dress them for the season!
As you contemplate your winter garden this year, spend some time planning improvements to next year’s garden. Contact Spotts Garden Service to schedule a garden coaching or design consultation!