Winter Gardens

Winter Gardens

by The English Lady 

Hello everyone, and thank you for inviting me into your garden once again. So many people say to me “Maureen, winter is so long with the bitter cold and we have been having with such a lot of snow this season. Is there such a thing as a winter garden to cheer me up?” Yes folks there is! Evergreen and deciduous structure is the backbone of the garden and a wonderful backdrop for your other plants, both shrubs and perennials. The broadleaves of the Rhododendron, the soft peeling bark of the Heritage Birch, the cinnamon brown of the Paperbark Maple, the lacey fronds of the Eastern Red Cedar, the soft green of the White Pine, and the gentle blue of the Colorado Blue Spruce are just a few of the large trees to include in your landscape. Some shrubs that will add structure and year round interest are Holly, Pieris, Boxwood, Dwarf Hinoki cypress, and the evergreen Azalea “Delaware Valley White.

A few winters ago when I was in England I visited a Knot garden I had designed using Boxwood. The morning sky was a brilliant red and the heavy white frost on the Boxwood looked just like a wedding cake covered with white icing. It was a lovely sight to behold.

Well back on this side of the pond, for next winter let us plant a Winterberry with its bright red berries that look wonderful against the snow. “Winter Red” Winterberry is my favorite. Winterberry tolerates damp conditions and will prosper near a pond or stream. Another shrub that tolerates moist conditions when planted in a sunny spot is the Vernal Witch hazel with fragrant flowers in colors ranging from yellow to red appearing in January and February. Another early beauty is the Winter Hazel with lemon yellow blossoms and small bluish green heart shaped leaves.

Under plant these shrubs with Snowdrops, Helleborus, and Pulmonaria; all early bloomers. To complete the picture, plant an evergreen ground cover like Ivy or Myrtle. If you are planting on a slope and need to hold the grade, Willowleaf Cotoneaster is a favorite of mine. It is a low spreading plant with red berries in fall, bronze leaves in winter turning green in spring, followed by small white flowers; as you can see, a plant for all seasons.

If you have a sunny sheltered spot where the snow first melts, put a bird feeder and hang some extra treats such as a lump of suet stuffed with nuts, or hollow out pine cones and fill them with peanut butter and hang them from a tree or line, your feathered friends will be most grateful to you.

Also place a bench in a sunny spot and paint it a bright color like sky blue or bright yellow, because we often have the odd day that surprises us with mild temperatures, where we can sit, plan, and meditate.

Whilst you are out there on that mild day, check the winter protective covering on your plants; make sure it is not packed down with snow because that can impede air circulation. If it is packed down, lift it up a little and let it fall back gently.

Well folks, I know you are chafing at the bit for spring to arrive, but don’t succumb to complete withdrawal and I’ll see you in your garden soon. Let’s keep looking forward until we can get out there with a spade, rake, and pruners. And don’t forget to exercise.

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