We tend to think that gardening is over at this time of year. Usually we have everything put to bed and mulched for winter. We turn indoors or to other activities with no thought of our gardens until spring. But late autumn and winter are the perfect times to place a critical eye on the garden and really take a good look at the structure or “ bones” of our surroundings. It is the perfect time to study what is working in our garden design and what is ho hum. By making a little effort and planning accordingly we can organize new plantings next spring that will add beauty not only in the growing season but also during the dormant times.
The best way to do this, is to take pictures of the garden at this time of year and look at the structure or shapes you see in the photos. If you can convert them to black and white, all the better. Photos seem to show us very clearly areas that need added texture, height, or contrast.
If you have trees, this is an excellent time to look at their branch structure and determine if pruning is needed, what may need to be removed or where a tree could be added. This may involve the services of an arborist.
Things to consider adding to your landscape to create good bones can include the following:
- Trees with interesting form or bark. Think of the layered branching of a dogwood tree or the bark of a river birch. These features make the tree beautiful, even in winter.
- Once I added hakone grass, pennisetum, switch grass and others to my landscape the difference in winter was profound. They are so beautiful in snow but also stunning in late fall when they turn biscuit color.
- Perennials with interesting seedheads. Coneflowers, baptisia, tall sedums and others produce seedheads that last all winter. They also support wildlife. Nothing compares to the look of navy blue baptisia seedheads against white snow. So even though we tend to think of perennials as plants that disappear in winter, that is often because we remove them. By leaving that clean up until spring, we can support the environment and allow for a new winter look.
- Conifers and broadleaf evergreens. Of course, anything that keeps its leaves/ needles all year is a necessary part of any garden in Canada. They create a balanced look with their contrasting textures, unmatched by other plants.
So, get out there, take stock of your domain and get planning for next spring. It will make your garden better than ever, and make winter more bearable for any gardener who is still learning to love the dormant season.
Authored by Tanya Crowell