How to Have a Winter Garden (Yes, Even in New Hampshire)

As seen in Elf (Enjoy Life to the Fullest) Magazine, produced by The Keene Sentinel.

In a four-season state like New Hampshire, for gardeners at least, it’s vital to plan a way to integrate our green connection. (Even when you want to just hibernate with your seed catalogs until the crocuses bloom!) The truth is, a winter garden makes it possible to embrace the chill and design an eye-catching outdoor destination.

Like all gardeners, I feel the absence of my bright blooms and seasonal flavors as we settle into the winter months. Luckily, the chill-filled sunshine and blue skies can offer their own sense of wonder and inspiration. 

It is easier than you’d suspect to be one with a winter landscape.

Winter Gardens that Make the Most of Nature’s Simple Design

My winter garden approach begins in late spring if you can believe it. I grow plants to leave in-bed until the next planting season. One way to select these is to think about creating a habitat for local wildlife. You’d be surprised how many are flowers you’re already familiar with and probably grow yourself. This brings the wildlife closer for easy close-up observation – without leaving the warm indoors.

For instance, towering sunflowers result in seeds that bring flocks of goldfinches. Underneath, you’ll find favorites like drooping annual cosmos and sturdy echinaceas. These pollinator powerhouses are one of the last fall-blooming lifelines for native and domesticated bees. They are self-seeding, making planting a literal breeze. (Find these plants, and more, at Fedco Seeds of Maine).

Moving on to anise hyssop, which you’ve heard me mention before. It stands out over the snow at 3-feet tall with little, oblong bloom-shells shedding new seeds. These feed wildlife around your yard and make spring planting hands-free. You’ll also find a bed of hardened zinnia heads catching snow crystals and feeding finches.

I leave the lacy flower heads of dill and queen’s anne’s lace for a crystalline effect on a sunny morning. You can also allow hardy leaves of ornamental cabbage or velvety foxglove to gather the frost in front of other taller plants for multi-level appeal. 

And of course, I have to mention a native, New England shrub MVP: the winterberry. Its round crimson berries stand out in a sea of white. As you can see, the options are endless, and all that’s needed is your creativity. 

Integrating Decorative Elements

You can nudge a winterscape into place with a few well-placed items. For instance, a beautiful feeder here and there can attract rose-breasted nuthatches, purple finches, and bold cardinals. The birds’ bright colors stand out against the snow, and they’re mesmerizing to watch over your morning cup of coffee.

For an added touch of fun, I place metal animals in the garden, yard, and walkway. My favorites include mischievous goats, classic hens and roosters, and never-to-be-left-out bears. Bright signatures like these draw the eye no matter the season.

Last, but never least, spinners are a must for any all-weather garden. They’re impressive year-round, particularly when they spell a storm-a-brewing. I love how elegantly they shine above the snow and how vibrant they can be against a blue sky.

Much of the winter garden comes down to contrast with colors, textures, and heights. So as you begin to plan your spring beds, think ahead a full cycle. What can you add that will stand out, attract more action to your yard, and break up the grays of mid-winter? If you add to the picture all season long, you’ll also have special memories to look back on when the snow flies again.

Because whether it’s during a brisk winter walk or just gazing out the window, gardens should be a place of joy and wonder every day of the year.

Garden Tip: If you are researching landscape design, read our blog, “Landscape Designs That Are As Beautiful By Night As By Day”

January 29, 2024

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