Quick Steps to a Brighter Winter Landscape

The winter Blah’s are a real thing. The short hours of sunlight mean less vitamin D which can contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder – basically, weather-related depression. Not only does the lack of sunshine add to this, but your snow-covered landscape doesn’t inspire much joy either. If you’re a dedicated gardener, you can keep your garden green all winter. Okay, not green exactly, but certainly a few shades of pink, red, purple, and white. Plants such as Helleborus orientalis (better known as Lenten Rose), winter pansies, and bushes such as holly and winterberry are all great cold-weather plants. The only downside to this plan is that these flowers need to be planted before wintertime in order to bloom. So let’s look at some things you can add right now to brighten the view from your window.

Art/Sculpture

Snowmen were so last year. If you want to decorate your winter landscape, you have plenty of other options. If there’s enough snow, pick a fun shape and go out and sculpt it! It’s a great way to spend time with family and friends, stay active when most people are cooped up in their houses, and it will give you something fun to see through your frost covered windows for a few days. If you want something more permanent, look into yard sculptures or tree art. Yard sculptures come in a wide variety, from welded metal animals to poured concrete gnomes. Pick one or create a whole menagerie! If you want something more subtle, look for some tree art. Think of a Mr. Potato Head kit, but the pieces stick into your trees instead of a potato. You can get happy faces, scary faces, even a Bigfoot peaking out from behind the tree. Use your imagination and find whatever makes you happy when you look at it.

Color

Everyone loves fall because of the beautiful colors of the changing leaves and everyone loves spring because of the beautiful colors of the flowers, but winter tends to be a stark white landscape that doesn’t inspire much joy. You can quickly change that with a few yard accessories. One of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to add color to your winter landscape is with homemade ice balls. Get some sturdy balloons and fill them with water. Now add a few drops of food coloring, tie the balloon, and shake gently. Now all you have to do is freeze them. If the temperature outside happens to be 32 degrees or less, just place them gently on your lawn and wait. If not, just put them in your freezer. Once they seem stable, pop the balloon and you’ve got large colorful marbles to place around the yard or your gardens. Bonus to this plan, when they melt, there’s no cleanup! Other options for adding color include painting murals on your fence, add some small colored solar lights, or just hang up some holiday lights and enjoy.

Sound

Brightening up a winter landscape involves appealing to ALL of our senses. If the deadening snow is just too peaceful for you, add a bit of ambiance with a wind chime. Chimes can be made of wood, metal, or anything in between. You can even buy them with specific tones if you prefer higher or lower pitches. Again, this is one of those things you can turn into a family activity. Go to the craft store and get some good reliable string, pick something for the center of your chime and find objects that make pleasant sounds when they strike it or each other. Try alternative items like metal spoons, shells, or glass beads. There’s no limit to what you can use as long as it sounds good and when you hear it chime you won’t only have a pleasant sound, you’ll also have a happy memory to think on.

There’s no reason to settle for a white winter wonderland if you don’t want to. Be the talk of the block and add some fun features to your garden this winter.

Prepare Your Flower Beds for Next Season

It may be tempting to start ignoring your garden in the fall while you get distracted with holiday shopping, relatives visiting, and everything else you have to deal with, but it’s vitally important that you prepare your flower beds for next season, otherwise you’ll have a big mess on your hands in the spring. First, it’s important to realize that there are three different types of flowers and they all need different levels of preparation for surviving the winter.

Annuals

Annual flowers are those that only grow for one season and must be replanted yearly from a new seed or plant in order to bloom. Common varieties include gardenias, verbena, geraniums, impatients, marigolds, pansies, petunias, periwinkle, salvia, sage, sunflowers, and begonias. If you leave dead annual plants in your garden over the winter, they won’t flower again in the spring. In fact, they will spell more of a mess than anything else. Some annuals do bloom during winter and these are important because they provide soil coverage that helps avoid erosion. These varieties include calendula, sweet pea, larkspur, snapdragon, lavender, and ornamental cabbage.

Perennials

Perennials are the opposite of annuals – you can plant them once and they will bloom for season after season (at least two years), but don’t think they will do this automatically. It takes work to be sure your perennials will come up flowering in the spring. Common garden perennials include aster, peonies, chrysanthemums, daffodils, and lilies.

First, remove any invasive plants from these flowerbeds. During autumn, weeds will draw nutrients deep into their roots to start storing for the winter. Thus, weed killer is drawn directly into the roots when applied to the plant in the fall. Ideally, after you pull, they won’t return in the spring. This also means that your perennials are drawing nutrients for storage so test your soil nutrients and spread a mulch or compost that will feed your perennials properly all winter long.

Bulbs

Flowers that sprout from bulbs will survive a winter in the ground only if the bulbs are hardy enough. You’ll want to look into your USDA Zone (link) to know the average temperatures, dates for first and last freezes, and get an idea of which bulbs can be left in the ground and which you will have to baby through the cold months indoors. Delicate bulbs, such as dahlias, begonias, gladiolus, canna and calla lilies must be dug up, dried, and wrapped for winter storage if you live in colder zones.

Hardier bulbs such as tulips, hyacinth, daffodils, and crocuses can be left in the ground in most zones, but some general rules still apply. Remove any dead plant matter or invasive species before retiring your garden beds. Add an extra layer of mulch, sometimes three to four inches, to flowerbeds with bulbs. If you use composted mulch for protection, make sure your mulch is healthy before spreading it. One diseased plant mulched into your compost pile can mean dead bulbs come springtime.

While you’re on the roof stringing up the holiday lights, don’t forget to look down at your garden and show it some attention too. A properly winterized flowerbed will be ready for planting come springtime or it may even sprout up some flowers without any help from you, but only if you take care of it first.

Winterizing Your Garden

You’ve finally got your garden looking exactly how you want it. The bushes are pruned, the flowers are blooming, and I know you’re trying to ignore the fact that winter is slowly creeping around the bend. After all the hard work you put into your garden, it’s important to protect it over the winter season so you can enjoy your bright flowers and fresh veggies the moment spring arrives instead of having to work on months of winter damage. Here are some simple tips for winterizing your garden.

Flowers
If you get something out to use it and then put it away nicely, it will already be clean and ready for you when you go to use that item again. The same goes for your garden. If we put our plants away neatly, they are willing for us the next time we need them and it saves us time down the road. Cut your perennials down to just a few inches before the first freeze hits. The roots will be protected underground through the winter, and they will flower again with no work in the spring. Annuals should be pulled up, roots and all, and tossed or composted as they will not flower again.

Vegetables
Keeping a vegetable bed healthy through the winter is all about the soil. Pull out weeds and invasive plants and make sure you get all the way down to their roots. Remove dead leaves, branches, stems, and other debris that may become a home for bugs or diseases. Next, you want to get a soil test. Different vegetables will pull different nutrients from the ground, which is why you should rotate your crops. Getting a soil test can help determine what you should plant next. Most gardens will benefit from a winter crop such as clover or garlic to keep a protective layer on your soil. Don’t feel like waiting all winter to garden again? No worries. Try a cold-frame to grow veggies all year round.

Bulbs
Some plants grow from seeds while others grow from bulbs. Most bulbs are very weather sensitive and need to be removed, dried, and stored indoors during winter months. Heartier bulbs you can leave in the ground, but make sure there is an extra protective layer of mulch on your flower beds if you do this. Four to five inches of mulch is a standard level to insulate bulbs from the cold.

Shrubs & Trees
Many small shrubs, bushes, and new trees need some extra love to survive the cold. Baby trees have sensitive bark that could dry and crack during the winter. Shrubs and bushes should have full foliage to protect against drying winds. Try a commercial tree wrap and fully enclose these trees and shrubs before the first frost hits.

Water Features
Unfortunately, winterizing a water feature isn’t as easy as turning it off when the first freeze hits. Pump parts could become frozen and break during the winter if water is left in the hoses and pipes. Some water features are designed to run all year round and have anti-freezing mechanisms built into the pump system. Check with your installer to see what exact directions are needed for you to winterize your water feature.

It’d be great if we could keep our gardens blooming all year, but winter is coming and we need to be prepared. If you want to keep your gardens healthy for years to come, make sure you winterize them. It could be the difference between a colorful flowerbed or a soggy mess in the spring.

Prepare Your Commercial and Residential Landscape for Snow and Cold Temperatures

It is important to prepare your commercial and residential landscape for cold temperatures. If you have a commercial landscape, then you know just how important landscaping is; your landscaping represents your business. It’s important to have a landscape that can be vibrant during the summer while also being able to support heavy loads of snow and freezing temperatures during the winter. This is a thin line to tread and preparing your landscape for cold weather while still making it look good during warm weather can be difficult. The most efficient strategy is to use plants that bloom in summer and die back or “hibernate” in winter, so the winter snow will not damage any sensitive branches that are trying to survive. Snow and extreme cold are the most threatening elements of winter for delicate landscapes. Heavy loads of snow that get plowed on top of landscaped areas can break branches.