Did you ever think about your garden having a skeleton? Look at it during the winter when most trees are bare, and frost has killed back tender plants, and you’ll see the “bones” that serve as the framework for your landscape.
One advantage of taking a careful look is to evaluate this underlying structure for landscape planning. Too often, we plant things for immediate gratification, with little attention to their long-term impact. Are the evergreens you hoped would screen a distant view now obscuring everything or getting so scraggly that you can see right through them? Is the lawn you envisioned carpeting the front yard struggling with too little sun? Do the flowerbeds and vegetable garden look like weed patches?
Think about what each planting adds to the landscape. Sometimes overgrown trees or shrubs need to go, or the lawn needs replacing with groundcover. Conversely, maybe you need something more: Adding two more lavender plants to the lone one standing your flowerbed will show you the value of repetition in creating continuity. Planting a cover crop might make your vegetable garden look like something in progress rather abandoned.
How about the “hardscape”? Are the driveway and sidewalks or paths working for you? Do they take traffic where you want it go and provide an inviting way through your property? Are arbors, benches, containers, garden art and window boxes well-integrated with your plantings? Using a tuteur in your flowerbed or garden statuary in a clearing will create focal points that can lead viewers on a visual journey through the landscape.
A winter look at our gardens not only shows us what endures from season to season and what is and isn’t working, but reveals where we can provide winter interest. Here in the mountains, our gardens can shine through all four seasons. Shrubs and trees with winter berries, cones or fruits can brighten dull corners, as can those with interesting or colorful bark or stems. Early-flowering bulbs and perennials can even add a few flowers throughout the winter months.
by Debbie Green, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer