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Gardening Articles

Winter Landscaping

A blanket of snow can transform your garden, literally overnight, from a bleak winter scene to a sparkling, magical tableau. We gardeners have an abundance of showy summer performers at our disposal. But it’s in winter that we have the real star player. For what other garden transformation is so immediate, so spectacular, and so magnificent as snow? It is as though a sorcerer has cast his finest spell while we were sleeping. Drabness is swallowed whole, colors and shapes deliciously sharpened. And those exquisite, long shadows make a play of vertical and horizontal planes. Suddenly, all our senses and spirits are engaged.

The trick is to make the most of the show when it hits; to incorporate features that help us over the cold hump of winter, capitalizing, instead, on its finest gift. If we create structure, we provide the framework for snow, hoar frosts and slanting light to weave their wizardry.

Since the garden covered in snow will more likely be viewed from inside the house than out, it follows that the launch point could begin by looking outwards from all windows. As you look out at the snow cover think aspects and heights; trees and topiary, sculpture and statuary, pots and pergolas to paint a winter scene. This is when you see the bare bones, the skeleton of your landscaping design. This is the time to plan changes and redesign.

Winter landscaping ideas
Winter landscaping ideas

It may start with smallest of changes, simply by resisting the temptation to over tidy the perennials beds, leaving instead a few well chosen, graphic seed heads or tall grasses to add interest. Consider, too, the large, spiky perennials, all chunky and humorous in the winter landscape, such as yucca, which cradles great wedges of snow like scoops of ice-cream.

As for trees, all are magnificent, but some excel under a cover of snow, their branches covered with a layer of glistening snow showing off their intricate shape and form. Evergreens either left like Mother Nature sculpted them or shaped and molded as we please, they become more dramatic when covered with snow. Shrubs like the lilac pictured below are beautiful frosted with snow against our beautiful Colorado blue skies.

There is always the possibility of building our own structures. Rose arches or pillars and rope swags to form long, showy ropes of snow, creating interest when they are not covered with plants. Likewise, openwork gateways and arbors will filter the winter light, throwing complex shadows and shapes onto the snow carpeted ground. Statues and urns, simple chairs and benches, driftwood, well placed boulders will all capture a fresh fall in their own personal fashion, fluffing it up into plump cushions to attract our eye and hold it just a while longer.

It takes so little to create a wonderful winter garden – a smidgen of imagination, and you can choreograph your own show. So after the next snowfall or frosty morning look at your landscape and see what you have created. Is there a spot that could use some interest - a tree, a bush, some tall grasses, and a sitting bench? Now is the time to light the fire, pore over our seed catalogue and make a plan. And pray for snow!

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