Winter Gardens

Gardeners and lovers of the outdoors are getting eager for spring. Robins were seen feeding by someone, maple tree sap was dripping somewhere, and the phone has rang with thoughts of spring projects. It won’t be so long now, the day length is already growing a bit.

Dark days are all too common, but have you begun to notice a few things popping through the earth already? Crocus, daffodils, even daylilies are peeking new green shoots out. The hellebores will be blooming before too long, and just perhaps you’ve already seen a blooming witchhazel. Winter aconite with its golden little flowers and before long grape hyacinths will join the display. You might start keeping a sharp eye out for squill, snowdrops, windflowers and snowflakes too.

Winter is a good time to look at the structures and bones of the landscape; yours, and those of your neighbors also. The shapes of trees, the bark on trees, the shed behind the neighbors’ house you couldn’t see last summer—there are a lot of things to stop and notice in the winter that you might not think of once a new growing season is underway. Arbors, gazebos, pergolas, a big outcropping of stones—now is an opportune time to notice these garden elements and lawn adornments such as birdbaths and metal art.

Once leave cover the bare trees again and the grass begins growing, the little things may not be obvious in the landscape like they are now. So, use the time now to take a walk and also to do some dreaming of things you’ll want to do when the weather improves. A long walk is going to be good for you anyhow, we all probably have let down in the physical exercise department in the colder weather of winter.

You may see bird nests, hornets nests, squirrels dens, a groundhog den and who knows what else on your stroll. A squirrel or rabbit may scamper away. You’ll also notice spots of bare soil and drain tiles and various things like utility covers that you didn’t notice so much in summer.

Evergreen trees really stand out and shine in winter. They are pretty at other times too, but they don’t have to compete for attention in the winter. They are the focal points in the landscapes and along the hills and valleys of the countryside. White pine, red cedar, blue or Norway spruce, and certainly a Southern magnolia tree will catch your attention in winter, as will the hollies.

Vines such as winter creeper, English ivy, vinca and jasmine will be obvious when lawns are dormant and trees are leafless.

If you have a sun room or atrium you may be able to keep growing plants indoors over winter, and some such as citrus may bloom in winter. You may also see a yard with a camellia in bloom, and in zone 7 quite a few other plants will bloom even in the snow. By March the loropetalum and forsythia and Persian parrotia will be blooming.

I invite you to have a crispy stroll, it will be invigorating to the body, and even if you don’t see any blooming plants yet, your mind will brighten up and your dreams will be of spring.

Those who have thoughtfully planned in previous years may soon have a yard that’s the talk of the neighborhood as late winter and early spring flowers pop up and smile brightly. The rest of us can collect some ideas for implementation in our yards in the days ahead.