Winter perfect time for bones in the garden

How a garden looks in the winter is as important as those frilly scenes of colorful flowers in the summer.  And to make the perfect winter garden, you need to think about the structure or “bones” of your space.

It is easy to lose track of what makes a garden sing.  It is the structure and the predominance of “green” that supports the seasonal changes brought on with flowers and deciduous trees.  When a landscape looks good during December to February, than it makes the rest of the year just that much better.

What to do first?

Right now is the time to inspect your space.  Notice all of the places outside where you mostly see gray sky, brown dirt, excessive weeds, and a lack of focal points.  These are your problems to be addressed.

Without getting too far into garden design, for now, think about getting green into your yard.  Green is a centering color – it will enhance your mood and provide calm and relaxation every time you look out your windows.  It is nature’s Prozac. The more you have of it, the less gray and decay you will see, and the less bummed out you will likely feel.

There are also plenty of conifers with blue tones that also look nice this time of year, especially dusted with snow.

Take an inventory of how much space you need to fill.  Make a simple drawing of your property, and with a tape measurer calculate the width and heigh of each area needing to be filled.

Next, without even having to know which plants are green (evergreen) during this season, go to your local garden nursery and consider those plants that look great right now.  These will mostly be conifers, ferns, bamboo, evergreen shrubbery, and ground covers. Based on your budget, start picking plants to fill those spaces.  On the tags will be their mature heights and weights, so take that into consideration.  Just remember, some plants take years to grow, so if you fill your yard with lots of little evergreens you’ll be on the right track, it just may take awhile to really benefit.  If you can, buy more mature plants now for immediate benefit.

Quick garden tip

If you consider two more garden design concepts, you will make the most of your plant suggestions.  First, consider the textures of the plants you want to bring home.  Try and get a variety.  If you pick all conifers with needles, or shrubs with waxy leaves, it is less interesting.  Mix it up, and you will give your eyes something more to enjoy. Also, consider the shapes.  Don’t get all round plants, or all cone shaped.  Like texture, a variety of shapes make a difference, too.  Then, when home, add these plants in by carrying the texture and shapes from one end of the space to the other.  And, of course, leave pockets for bulbs, perennials and annuals to add in more color during the spring and summer.

Plants to consider

While looking for winter bones in your garden, several to consider for their texture, shape and green or blue hues that grow well in the South Puget Sound area are Fatsia japonica, Buxus sempervirens or Box hedge, hebes, Western Sword Fern, Stripestem bamboo, Fat Albert Colorado Blue Spruce, and for a little maroon, New Zealand Flax, or yellow, Mr. Goldstrike Aucuba.  Always check the plant tags for the right sun/shade mix, and be sure they can survive outside at least in 20-degree weather (look for Zone 8 or less).

For more design ideas, see


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