Act Now to Add Winter Interest to Your Yard

Winter finds people, just like animals, hibernating–when we can get away with it.

On weekends, and if you’re lucky, during the week, you may get to see your yard, and those of your neighbors, during daylight hours. You’ll find they look much different than they did before the frost and cold winds took away all the tree leaves. This is also when you realize there are actually a few homes on the block that look good in winter-time.

Let’s take a look at some simple things we can do to give a little sparkle, color or brightness to our yards as the days get more short and dull.

First off, you will notice any large and well-established evergreen trees. Maybe a southern magnolia, a pine, a spruce, a hemlock, a fir, a cedar or arborvitae. Hollies, taxus, junipers, viburnum, laurels and azaleas, too. Evergreens are simple and require less maintenance, and they give four seasons of greenery rather than maybe six or eight months of it. Most yards should have an evergreen or two, even something dwarf if the space is restricted.

(Caution: remember to not plant most evergreen trees in deep shade as they will fail. I’ve seen nursery owners design fancy, expensive, junipers or falsecypress in shady locations…they are thinking of just making a sale when this happens.)

Success with evergreen trees and shrubbery is in their long term performance; they should become more beautiful and look like they belong. Spacing them for the size they will become, not the size they are when planted, is one of the keys.

In addition to evergreen trees, how else can we add some pazazz to our yards in winter? I like to suggest plants that have colorful twigs or stems, sometimes plants that retain leaves after they change colors, and a few winter blooming trees, shrubs and perennials.

A Japanese maple with the name Sango Kaku is a coral bark dwarf maple that has lovely bark in winter. The red and yellow twigged dogwoods can be a winter-time delight. Some blueberry bushes have red or yellow limbs that are showy in winter.

Some junipers turn orange or purplish in winter instead of the green of summer. Some azaleas turn red or purple or almost black in winter. Nandina are famous for their red color in winter, and some for their berries. Winterberry holly bushes and hawthorne trees show off in winter; their red berries cling until wildlife eat them.

Sasanqua camellias are blooming at 400 Center Street in Berea, Kentucky as I write this. Hellebores will bloom much of the winter, they are ground cover plants with evergreen leaves that bloom in the snow. Witch hazel is another plant, actually a family of plants, that bloom in winter or very early spring.

Remember to plant daffodils and crocus and tulips in the fall (anytime before the ground freezes will be OK). Those lovely harbingers of spring will show off in your yard next Spring if you hurry to plant a few bulbs soon.

Clumps of grasses, with their seed heads waving in the cold winds, and covered with snow, can be a winter-time asset to the landscape. Don’t be in too big a hurry to cut the dead back, as they will look nice laden with snow this winter. And the grass and flower seeds you leave for now will save you from having to feed the birds.

I will end with some pansies or violas…they look great down into the teens, and sometimes survive winter to grow and bloom in the spring a second time. And I like how horseradish leaves take the cold for the first half of the winter, they can give some green to the flower bed, and some tangy leaves to spice up a bowl of salad.

Perhaps you can still find time to take some action this fall for a more attractive yard throughout the seasons to come.