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It's Winter... It's Time to Garden

on Fri, 01/02/2009 - 09:57

The leaves are gone and the days are short. It seems as if nurturing Mother Nature has forsaken us for warmer parts of the world. Old Man Winter has checked in, bags fully packed. As to what he's pack'in, only time will tell. Now is the perfect time to start planning, modifying and/or editing your garden design.

Any good gardener will tell you that it's all about planning. "Winter garden" you might say with a smirk. "Yep", winter garden. Much like the fashion industry, you're always one season ahead. So, here are several ideas and things that I do to ensure a captivating spring season.

The Steps:

  1. Put on a coat, gloves, hat and boots if necessary, and survey your property. Stand at the end of your driveway or edge of your front yard to assess your curb appeal (if any) in the dead of winter. This is your starting point. Find where your garden is bare and uninteresting. Remember that a four season garden has visual interest all year, in every season.
     
  2. Walk the property identifying what you like and what you don't like. Take a mental note of areas that require immediate attention for winter interest, such as evergreens for screening, architectural details, fencing and garden ornaments. Keep in mind that your future garden design requires attention to detail. This will be most obvious in winter.
     
  3. Utilize local libraries for books, magazines, videos and other informative and inspirational resources to identify what you like and don't like; what you imagine might be fabulous may not necessarily work in the space that you have. Be realistic. I too, love Versailles, but let's fact it, it ain't happening in my garden.
     
  4. Locate a nursery that has a large garden displaying shrubs, trees and other perennials so you can visit and see what you like. Look at texture, color, height and growing habits.
     
  5. Visit garden shops and home and garden accessory stores. Inquire about the previous seasons' birdbaths, birdhouses, trellises, tuteurs and other garden items or tools that they may have hidden in the storeroom. Play "let's make a deal". Typically they are more than willing to offload last year's inventory at a good price.
     
  6. Find a teak furniture distributor. Teak is the perfect addition to any garden as it weathers beautifully and requires absolutely no maintenance. Although pricey, winter is a great time to negotiate. Teak offers visual interest in all four seasons. Function, beauty and highly durable, teak is well worth the investment. Start with two armchairs or a bench and strategically place in a corner of your garden. Build your collection from there.
     
  7. Discount home stores quite often have wire plant stands in all seasons. When you see them, grab two. You won't regret it. These plant stands provide height and interest in your garden during the flowering seasons of spring and summer and are perfect for bringing your garden indoors during fall and winter.
     
  8. Winter is a great time to take gardening classes. Classes are often available at high school continuing education, at your local university, garden clubs and nursuries. Find out and take advantage of what your community offers.

Just because its winter doesn't mean there's not gardening options. For those of us who love to play in the dirt, winter offers many options such as forcing bulbs like Paper White, Daffodils and Tulips. The Amaryllis is a striking tall flower that only blooms in winter. Available in a variety of colors, imagine what that splash of color would look like on your kitchen counter. I also love violets. Besides looking beautiful on a window sill, they are wonderful hostess gifts when you transplant several together in a low terra cotta pot. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Ivy topiaries are typically available during the winter. I love to put them on my fireplace mantle in the winter and then outside on a patio table in the summer. Small pots of ivy in terra cotta also look great on a window sill. These are inexpensive and very low maintenance.

For those of you who are beginners, start with the place in your home where you spend a lot of time that offers a view of your yard. Perhaps that is the window over your kitchen sink or the window next to your favorite chair. This is where I recommend starting your first garden.

And there you have it.

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