Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as the saying goes and you need to look at a garden in a different way to appreciate its winter attractions. Once the leaves have fallen and the vegetation has died down you can see the basic structure of the trees and shrubs. This article by Michael Boodro writing on Rodale’s Organic Life website asks you to “Open your eyes to subtle differences in texture and whispers of color”.

Great beauties have great bone structure. As in Hollywood, so in gardens. And a garden’s structure is particularly evident in winter. But when the trees and shrubs are bare, and the flowers long gone, what’s there to see? Chances are, you’re hoping for a couple of inches of snow to blot the forlorn sight from view. There’s another way to look at it. You can adjust your vision and appreciate winter’s minimalist palette. This is a season of stone grays, sere browns and creams, the blackish green of evergreen needles against a washed, white sky. Open your eyes to subtle differences in texture and whispers of color; recognize the grace of trees and shrubs as they adjust to the season. It’s beautiful out there. Stripped to its essentials, the garden is both dramatic and self-sustaining. And we have simple suggestions to help you make your winter landscape stunning.

Souvenirs of summer
Fall cleanup is an annual ritual for flower beds (and yes, those impatiens and other annuals will freeze and turn to mush, and there is no sense in leaving them). But wait until spring to cut back sturdy perennials such as sedum, false indigo, bee balm, and coneflowers. Their slender brown stalks add height and texture. Ornamental grasses and Scotch broom also hold their mounded shape through the winter, standing tall and rustling evocatively in the wind.
The first flowers
Longing for blooms? Push the season with hellebores, whose hanging cuplike flowers range from deep maroons to greeny whites. They’re among the first to bloom, even in the snow. Witch hazel (Hamamelis spp.) is one shrub that blooms very early; its pale yellow flowers are sweetly scented. Winter-blooming heaths (Erica spp.), with their tiny white, pink, purple, or yellow flowers, are especially welcome in a rock garden or edging a snow-lined pathway.
Bright berries
Even tiny bits of color make a great impact in the gray months. That’s why hollies and their berries are so popular. Try a variegated variety, such as ‘Madame Briot’ with leaves outlined in gold. Many other bushes and trees, such as mountain ash (Sorbus spp.) and Arbutus spp., produce berries that will help sustain birds. If roses are left undeadheaded, they’ll develop glossy hips. Hardy rugosa roses produce particularly large and shiny hips that linger far into winter.

Read the rest at Rodale’s Organic Life

Image source: Peter Collins