Winter - the best time to plan your garden!

Shirley Lindsey
Adams County Master Gardener

Yes, you can garden in the winter. Actually it is the best time for making plans as well as viewing your landscape and making decisions about what wonderful effects you want to create in your garden next year. When the leaves fall and the flowers are gone, you can see the "bare bones" of your garden and imagine just where a nice arbor or water feature might go.

My definition of a garden structure is anything in the garden that does not grow there. This leaves room for lots of lovely additions to your garden. One might question how anything could add to the beauty of flowers, trees and shrubs. The idea is not to surpass, but to enhance those beautiful natural plants.

There are several reasons for using structures in the garden. One that many of us can identify with is maximizing space. Like most gardeners I do not want to be greedy, but I would really like to have (at least) one of every plant in existence. That not being practical, I want to make the most of the gardening area that I have. Since most of us have fairly limited areas in which to garden, we can use the space effectively by placing garden structures at strategic points.

In addition to making our gardening space seem bigger, structures lend variety to the garden. Probably no two people see eye-to-eye on what is beautiful. But you may enjoy, as I do, natural features in the garden. I have several very large white rocks placed around the flower garden. They make a nice contrast to the predominately green background. Some people prefer wooden decorations - an old bench or wooden planter or tree stump. If you take a garden path and find it leads to some attractive statuary, it makes a pleasing surprise.

Another advantage of garden structures is that they often enhance the beauty of the plants themselves. Where would the delightful clematis or climbing rose be without a trellis or arbor to climb on? Plants creeping over a stone wall make a charming combination. These types of structures help us to appreciate the natural beauty of the flowers.

Remember the attraction of the structure itself. An English trough garden or an old Adirondack chair lends a rustic appeal and emphasis to a garden. Similarly a formal fountain or tall metal arbor can give a more formal garden a nice exclamation point.

Sometimes we have an idea what we want in our garden, but we just donít know where to put it. This is one reason why we need time to mull over our decisions on garden structures.

You may have been reading recently about "Garden Rooms." This is the concept of small and intimate areas in the garden, which are separated from each other. You could locate an arbor or pergola or a gate at the "entrance" of a garden room to surprise and delight viewers as they come through.

Another type of structure, perhaps a man-made fence or a natural hedge of shrubs, is often used to screen off areas that are more work-oriented, such as a driveway or the area where you keep the garbage cans or your heat pump. It is important to note here that you do not want to place anything too close to your heat pump or its efficiency will be affected.

Often we like structures as focal points themselves. You may want to draw your guests into the garden to the water garden, or perhaps you have a particularly lovely or unusual piece of statuary you want to lead them to. My large rocks make a statement on their own as well as serving as backdrops for flowers.

Keep in mind the location from where you will view your garden structure. Will it be placed so you can see it from your deck, porch, kitchen or dining nook? Where will you enjoy it the most? These are all questions to consider when deciding on and placing a garden structure. You may decide to place your structure in front of the house if it is something unique that you would like identified with your home. We have a cannon at our house. Even though we don't keep it in the front yard, it is a great conversation piece.

Some typical structures used in gardens include arbors, pergolas, vine poles, trellises, special lighting equipment, sun dials, weather vanes, bird baths and feeders, plant hangers, water gardens, water features, fountains, rocks, mill wheels and wagon wheels. You can use bricks or wood to outline beds, rock walls, fences, walls, statuary, decorative wooden items, unusual planters (wheel barrows, whiskey barrels, old crocks, wash tubs), and paths covered with grass, stone, brick, wood chips and stepping stones.

Your imagination is the only limitation to what you may decide to put in your flower garden to call attention to the natural beauty of your plants. A caveat I would offer is that you never want to add so much 'stuff' that you detract from the loveliness of the plants themselves.

Winter is definitely the best time to be planning what you may want to do to make your garden more fun for the coming season. Personally I need several months lead time to convince my husband that he wants to build whatever I decide is absolutely necessary for next summerís garden.

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