Merrifield Garden Center

The Winter Garden

Many people think a winter garden is dull, lifeless, and without color. However, adding color and interest can improve your winter garden.

I recently attended an online gardening seminar on this topic given by Mary Kirk Meneffee, a landscape designer.

The following blog relates to some of the things I learned from her presentation.

However, we need to appreciate winter months and feel the cycle of the season. A few plants die back, others are in seeds, and some will only look like sticks. This makes it a time of rest and reflection, for both the garden and the gardener. There is also the anticipation that spring will arrive.

The below photograph is of a garden center in the middle of October. It is a profusion of orange, rust, purple, and yellow colors of cold-hardy chrysanthemums and pansies.

Merrifield Garden Center
Rows of Mums, 2022

Garden Structure in the Winter Garden

When the trees and plants lose their leaves in the winter, this is a great time to check out the garden structure. The landscape is bare and we can see the layering of trees and plants.

From our observation we might decide to:

  • Frame an Area with Evergreens
  • Trim and Prune Plants
  • Add Structural Elements
  • Replant plants if they are not in groupings and edit plants

When looking at my front yard, it is immediately apparent that I will need to remove and thin out some of my torch plants for next year.

Merrifield Garden Center

I like the way these natural plants are shaped into a cone-like grouping. The natural fall colors are stunning.

How to Add Garden Structure

There are a variety of ways to add garden structure and you have to decide what works best for your garden.

  • If you have paths in your garden, keep the edges clean and crisp looking.
  • Plant in masses using laying techniques. This, also, works nicely with bulbs.
  • Use evergreens as ends, borders and as focal points.
  • Plant deciduous trees.

Always have something interesting to look at in your winter garden and have a focal point. It could be a birdbath, pottery or statuary.

Also, try to create vignettes by grouping winter plants together. Put in key view sheds by using groups of plants. Never plant individual winter plants in different locations in the garden, group it up!

Merrifield Garden Center
Grouping of Fall or Winter Plants

Winter Garden Highlights

Dried Foliage – Ornament grasses look great in the winter. Also, don’t feel you need to remove every spent bloom and twig.

Bark and Stems – Sycamores trees have nice white bark. Maple trees and River Birch also look spectacular in the winter gardens.

Shape and Branching of Trees – Tulip Magnolias have a lovely shape. For a classic shape, try planting a Japanese Maple tree.

Screening Evergreens – Leyland Cypresses trees are known to have weak root systems.

This advice is too late for me, since I have nine huge Leyland on my property which I planted many years ago. So far, no issues with them. I enjoy the screening but if I had to do it again, I would plant something that doesn’t grow as tall and wide.

A good screening choice is Green Giants which is a narrow tree. American Holly and junipers also make good screening plants choices.

Tips for Winter Plant Containers

Planting containers are generally not insulated, so you need to think of where you are going to place them. Push the planters up against a brick wall or such, as it will offer some protection from the cold and winds.

Boxwoods do well in large containers and will last throughout the winter.

Ornamental cabbage and pansies, also, do well in containers for the fall and winter months but day after day of cold freezing weather will sometimes kill the plants.

Even placing stems of fresh pines into moist soil will give you an attractive plant container. Sometimes, the branches will keep fresh for a couple of months before you have to toss them out.

Ending Notes on the Winter Garden

For a great mature winter garden, think about the steps for structure. Also, during the winter, see if there are any areas you would like to screen with plantings. Not only adding plantings but do you need to edit or thin out any plantings? Lastly, think about your overall concept. Do you want a formal garden or a natural garden, etc.

Lots to think about for the winter gardener!

A Special Thank Your Goes out to Daniel of Merrifield Garden Center for their educational programs, and for allowing me to take photographs/blog about their garden center.

All the photographed plants featured on today’s blog are available for purchase at Merrifield Garden Center.

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