Creating Winter Interest in Your Garden

Lynne Forbragd, Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County


As gardeners, we labor most of the year starting seeds, planting, weeding and harvesting to make our gardens look perfect, but winter is a time to give ourselves and our gardens a rest. I enjoy the days in winter when we receive just a few inches of light snow and the temperature is just around freezing. There is no cold wind blowing so the snow hangs on the trees and shrubs, and the new snow brightens up the landscape. This time of year I like to look out my window to see the winter beauty in my garden and the peacefulness of the season. Many times the winter season is overlooked as a chance to create more interest in the garden. Now is a good time to take a look at your own garden to see where you can make changes in the spring.

Structure is the foundation of developing interest in your winter garden. Texture also becomes an important factor and can enhance any area in the garden. In the winter, color is absent for the most part so structure and texture needs to be strong to carry the few colors available throughout the landscape.

In this case, structure is the arrangement of how things are placed in your garden, not necessarily a building. The texture in fences, rocks, and paths are all things that can add interest in the winter landscape. Keep trellises, raised garden beds, garden art and bird houses in your yard instead of storing them away. Containers of cut evergreen branches, twigs and dried flowers can be added at the front door of your house or in different locations in your garden to create a focal point. Placing birdfeeders to attract birds and maybe a few squirrels will also add interest to your garden.

When selecting trees and shrubs to plant in your garden, think about how they look without the leaves, how much texture is in the bark, does the bark have color, and does it keep its flowers or berries. Conifers are always a good choice in the winter landscape to add color and Red Oaks keep their leaves until spring. Paper Birch and River Birch have a lot of texture in their bark. Some good choices for shrubs are boxwoods for keeping its leaves, Dogwoods for its colored twigs, Winterberry for its berries, Witch Hazel, Barberries, and Grapevines for their texture, and Hydrangeas for its dried flowers.

Not all of your perennials and annual flowers have to be cut back in the fall. Think of the plants that you grow that have interesting texture, could hold up to snow or have seeds that can attract birds to your yard. Some choices that I’ve had success with are Coneflowers, Rudbeckia, Sedums, ornamental grasses, and sunflowers. Think about using some of these ideas to help create winter interest in your garden.

Wishing you all a peaceful winter season.