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Landscape Planning In Winter: Using Containers

Many gardens and yards flourish all summer long only to look barren in winter. By then, it’s too late in many climate zones to plant trees and bushes for a winter landscape. But the dormant season is also the perfect time to plan your future winter landscape.

When the bare outlines of your yard are exposed, it’s easier to see where hardier trees, shrubs and plants could add dimension and color. Before you let your winterscaping vision fade into spring, seize the season by buying some young tough winter plants for outdoor containers—which, you can transplant into the ground in springtime. Watch as your winter container plants transition from being outdoor decorations to being the backbone of your yard’s landscape through all four seasons.

Winter Container Plants with Colors and Shapes for Every Season

Winter-hardy plants come in every size, shape and texture—in endless colors and subtle variegations.

Green foliage warms a landscape in any season, but shows especially well in winter when deciduous plants go dormant. Evergreen trees and shrubs are perennial fillers in every style of landscape. They form a lush backdrop in summer and become prominent focal points in winter, often popping with colorful flowers and berries. Evergreens—as well as the tougher evergreen conifers, grow in countless hues of green—from blue green to lime green and gold to silver.

No matter what region you live in, you could easily fill your winterscape from among the countless forms of evergreen plant species: A stately blue spruce tree grows to be a strong focal point and provides wind cover for a property. The low-growing wintergreen plant provides red and purple groundcover, with the added benefits of edible red berries and broadleaves, harvested traditionally as therapeutic tealeaves. Many types of evergreen English-ivies retain their colors year round. And old-fashioned boxwoods are one of many evergreen shrubs, which make a sturdy garden border.

For flowering plants, try holly or winter flowering pansies. Whichever types of winter plants you choose, native plants are natural choices for planning a winter landscape. Check local parks and nurseries for ideas and resources. Choose plants which will look as elegant in containers as they will when full grown in the design of your yard.

Keep Winter Plants at Home in the Right Climate Zone

To determine the climate zone which plants are most likely to survive in, refer to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, plant encyclopedias, or local nurseries list each plant’s designated zone—(the minimum temperature a plant can be expected to survive).

Since container plants aboveground are exposed to colder temperatures than plants under the ground, try to choose plants which are hardy, both in your local zone as well as another colder zone. The zone map is a good guideline, but plant survival varies with local conditions and microclimates.

Keep Your Container Plants Insulated from the Cold

Winter container plants need as much insulation as possible, since the roots do not have the benefit of being buried beneath the earth’s surface where temperatures are more constant. The bigger the container, the more soil there is to insulate roots from cold temperatures and fluctuations. More mature plants, with somewhat developed roots, will survive better in containers during winter.

Wood containers make good insulators. Impermeable materials like concrete, metal and plastic are also good shields from the elements. Keep all winter container plants off of the cold cement.

Hardy winter plants add dimensional beauty to your yard, whether they are in containers, transplanted in spring, or full grown in the ground through all the seasons. They balance and enhance the interesting patterns of bare branches and other interesting structures in your yard.

Make it easy by planting next year’s winterscape with this year’s decorative winter container plants.


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Winter Landscaping Tips, Tricks & Ideas

Winter is when so many homeowners realize the backbone of their yard’s landscape is too barebones to be interesting. Without the defining structures like evergreen trees, pergolas or pathways, garden landscapes gone dormant can look barren. While in winter, it’s too late to plant berry plants and too cold to build a retaining wall, but there are plenty of ways to add immediate interest to your yard, and at the same time plan for next year’s winter landscape.

Why it Works to Decorate Your Yard in Winter Time

Instead of regretting you didn’t get your winterscape planned in time for winter, you can add instant color, texture and form to your garden landscape with other structural elements—from benches to boxes. A few well-placed items transform the view out your window and create a picture for people driving by.

By decorating with garden items and things you already have, you save money while personalizing your winter landscape. In the process, you have the opportunity to study and plan your yard’s design for future seasons.

Create Focal Points for Winter Contrast

Garden architecture, from big to small, provides needed contrast against faded winter backdrops. Even a solitary pot, or a clump of long grass, stand out with winter interest. Anything can become an architectural element—from sculpture and statuary, to boulders and birdfeeders. String some tiny outdoor lights almost anywhere for effect.

An arrangement of outdoor furniture or a bench under a tree creates a congenial scene. Paint an old chair in a bold or subtle color. Drape a few antique garden tools on top of a small table.

So-called junk, like vintage farm implements, becomes art with character. Fill a wheelbarrow or a crate with logs, greenery or favorite trinkets.

Paint a gate or part of a fence. Take advantage of architectural pieces you come across. A section of fencing or a decorative panel leaning in the garden or against the house adds new dimension. So does a castoff window frame or a detached door with some original décor attached to it.

Consider the many possibilities of garden art—from metal sculptures to birdhouses and plant stakes to rustic signs.

Plan Your Spring and Summer Garden

Winter is the perfect time to study the bare bones of your garden landscape and plan its future design. As you add focal points to this year’s winter landscape with furniture or sculpture, think about year-round possibilities.

You might not have a pond, pathway or arbor in place now, but now is the time to imagine where those elements would best be situated within your landscape. Notice the shapes and outlines of existing trees and plants and where spaces need to be filled in. Visualize where hedges, stonewalls or walkways will provide natural borders and functional flow to your garden and yard.

Turn Winter Interest into Enduring Design

By decorating your yard in the winter, you have the opportunity to study the bare bones of its underlying structure and plan for year-round design elements.

An out-of-season landscape lets you see what’s missing. You can see where to plant evergreens for greenery, deciduous trees with interesting branches, shrubs or berries. You can determine colors, which will enhance pathways, arbors and other hardscaping.

But no matter how nondescript your yard looks in winter, you can make it more interesting with a few well-placed objects. It will transform the view out your window and your home’s curb appeal.