You say your garden doesn't have any of these attributes? Then it's time to remedy that. Unless there is a disease issue, at the end of the next gardening season, leave some interesting plant stems and seedheads standing, instead of cutting them down. By choosing judiciously which plant material to leave and which to cut, you can control patterns and create interest. A word of caution about seedheads: If a particular plant variety tends to be weedy and you don't want it coming up all over your flower bed the next season, exclude those seedheads from your winter garden.
Even though your garden isn't growing now, it's constantly changing. The most obvious changes occur when ice and snow are added to the scene, but there are more subtle changes as well. Plant material may shatter at some point during the winter. Ask yourself whether this creates additional interest or whether you should clean it up and perhaps do some pruning as well. Winter winds will create new patterns. Some plants may begin to lean or be swept into different positions by the prevailing winds. Think about the "sense of conquest," as Rosemary Verey calls it. Mother Nature may shape your garden to some degree, but you're in control when it comes to dealing with the result. And think about this as well: The winter garden requires no weeding!
As you ponder your winter garden scene, take note of plants you might add next growing season that would increase your enjoyment in winter. Here are some suggestions:
Choose varieties that have mophead or conical blooms
Add some grace to your winter garden by choosing varieties such as miscanthus cultivars, whose arching leaves create a fountain effect and provide movement as they sway in the breeze.
Ramrod-straight stems and flat-topped seedheads create interest and contrast with the arching grasses.
Try some of the many varieties and colors that have come onto the market in recent years. The conical seedheads not only add interest, but also supply nourishment for hungry birds. (Here is another example of change in the winter garden. You may want to cut off the stems, once the seedheads are gone.)
Northern sea oats
The seedheads are of great interest. Not only is their form and pattern beautiful, but each seed cluster is suspended by a "thread," so that it dangles and moves in the breeze.
Varieties with flat-topped seedheads generally have a lower profile than the other plants I've listed. Use them as a filler among the taller plants above.
Trees with interesting bark-colorful, patterned, and exfoliating
Seven-son flower tree (Heptacodium miconioides), Paperbark maple (Acer griseum), River birch (Betula nigra).
All plants in this list require partial to full sun and thrive in most garden soils.
As Rosemary Verey points out in the quote above, winter reveals the basic "bones" of your garden. This is so because the plants, trees, and shrubs have been "neutralized" by reducing their colors to browns, greys, and blacks. Fencing becomes more prominent. Garden furniture, should you choose to leave it outside over winter, takes center stage for awhile in this never-ending drama that is your garden. Also prominent are other structures such as pergolas, trellises, sundials, and garden art.
Use this winter revelation to see what you might want to alter, add, or enhance. Would a bench look good in this spot? How about some garden art over there? Perhaps a trellis on one of the exterior walls of the garage?
Now let's talk for a moment about some enlivening, non-neutral colors. Use them judiciously. In a sea of neutral colors, your eye will be drawn to them instantly. Ask yourself if there is a spot that you would really like to showcase in the wintertime. Make sure that the soil conditions, sun exposure, and general climate are right for whatever you decide to plant there. Here are some suggestions:
Dwarf false cypress, boxwood, dwarf Alberta spruce, dwarf Serbian spruce, 'Montgomery' blue spruce, and 'Spartan' juniper
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