The Winter Garden

by BerylM

The Winter Garden

For some strange reason, I am always surprised each Fall when Mother Nature creeps into my garden while I sleep and does what I can’t force myself to do, put my garden to bed for the winter. Living in the South, gives me hope each week for Fall to continue for one more week. I buy flats of pansies in anticipation of winter and each year they sit because I don’t want to let my summer garden go, but eventually Mother Nature takes control.

As time goes on, I am not sure if it is due to age or wisdom, but my Winter garden is left more as Mother Nature intended. She is a little more forward thinking than I and, in the wild, leaves dead plants with seed-heads as food and cover for wildlife, so now I try and do the same. I remove the summer annuals and plant the pansies and a few other winter hardy plants and take a few weeks off from worrying about the garden. I really like knowing that I’m taking care of the wildlife.

Winter is a good time to take stock of the garden’s bones as they say, because the bones make a garden a year round source of enjoyment. A garden with good bones will continue to be interesting in spite of the weather. Bones have a tendency to fade into the background during the other three seasons, but shine in the winter. When everything else is brown or gray, the rich burgundy leaves of the loropetalum literally shout look at me. After a snowfall, the bright green leaves of the Cast Irons planted in front of a red brick fence look like soldiers standing at attention. A bench painted Provence Blue stands out in contrast to the browns of last summer’s plants.

There are many perennials and shrubs to add interest and color to the winter garden. Hellebores (Lenten Roses) are at their best this time of year. Variegated Acuba and Euonymus can add that touch of yellow and then for contrast, you can add blue-gray plants such as Lavender. There is not much else to say about the many varieties of Camellias that begin blooming in late fall and continue into spring. We are lucky enough to have many evergreen varieties of Daylilies. There are even very early blooming varieties of Daffodils that begin poking the heads up before Christmas in the South.

When the weather is beautiful, gardens with good bones draw you outside to explore. These days remind us of the spring to come, so take a deep breathe, walk around , enjoy the garden and imagine it in spring. I always enjoy looking for the first sign of growth in the perennial beds. All this will fill you with renewed energy and begin the gardening juices flowing.

Most gardeners enjoy visiting other peoples and public gardens during the growing season. Winter is also a great time to visit other gardens and get ideas for building the bones of your own garden. You can get ideas for garden structures and how they fit into the landscape or you may find a few new varieties that can add color to the winter garden. An added benefit to visiting public gardens this time of year is they are still staffed, but the staff has less to do and being gardeners they loving sharing information and, perhaps, some seeds and cuttings.

Don’t forget to continue to take care of the birds. They need the feeders kept full even more during the winter. Because the leaves are off the trees, winter can be a great time for bird watching. Although many varieties migrate, there are still plenty who winter here. Attracting birds to the garden during the winter will ensure they will be there for you to enjoy in the spring.

George Radcliffe is retired now residing in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. He has been a lifetime gardener and a Master Gardener for three years. He enjoys helping others learn the joys of gardening in the south. George writes for

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The Winter Garden

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