A quick glance out of my kitchen window confirms that winter is definitely in residence in the garden. The light is low, the tree branches are the only real structure in sight, most border plants are dormant and the lawn is blanketed in yet another carpet of fallen leaves (note to self: make more leaf mould). Down at the allotment, everything is looking very bare, and the last time so much soil was unused was back in February.
This all sounds more than a little bleak, but actually it’s not that hard to add interest to your winter garden. At the simplest level it’s a question of training your eye to notice a different set of features in your garden; the effect of fading daylight viewed through ornamental grasses, the previously hidden structure of trees and large shrubs, the texture of raindrops on ivy. Less showy displays than those provided by the stars of other seasons, but no less enjoyable for that.
If however you’d like to spend a little time enhancing your garden over winter, focus on one or more of these areas. They’re all quite low-effort (one of the benefits that the slower pace of winter brings), but will ensure you can look out upon an uplifting piece of nature, which is wonderfully cheering at this time of year.
It’s good to be lazy now and then, and this is one of those times. Leave spent flower heads on plants rather than cutting them off; they will collect frost beautifully on crisp mornings and look fabulous with the winter sun shining through them.
Instant winter garden in a pot
You probably won’t be venturing out into your garden very much over winter, so it’s worth focusing your efforts on the parts of the garden you can see from your window. Containers are a great solution for this, as you can move them around easily until you have them just where you can see them best. This doesn’t have to be on a patio or deck either, consider tucking them into the bare patches in your borders. Get the kids to help you plant up a pot of winter flowering annuals such as pansies, viola, cyclamen, primrose and calendula, and they will flower for you right through to spring. Remember to layer some spring bulbs lower down in the pot too, this will extend the flowering season with minimal effort.
I always have a pot of winter flowering plants outside our front door, it’s lovely to see a little bit of nature every time we go in and out.
Wildlife can also bring bags of interest to your garden over the winter months. At other leafier times of year garden visitors are often tucked away out of view, but in winter we can see them in all their glory.
Encourage birds to visit with hanging feeders; remember to position them where you can see them from the house, and out of the reach of cats. This is a lovely one to involve the children; you could encourage them to make a diary of the varieties that visit, or get crafty making your own fat cakes and bird bath. Leaving seed heads on your plants provides a good food source for birds too.
Do you think you could make any of these ideas work in your winter garden?