rinda's blog
Winter 2010-2011

How does your garden look this winter? With all the snow we've had in Chicago, gardens were showing off their winter wear.

The four-season garden nods to the need to see something beautiful, something interesting, all year long. Looking out your window in January, don't you want to gaze on more than level snow or winter grass? As you come home after work in the evening, wouldn't it be nice to smile at the whimsy of your plants in winter?

Evergreens are the surest plants for winter beauty: because they hold their leaves or needles all year, they stay green, full, and sculptural. Evergreens in front of your home enhance the look of your property and show off your architecture. Evergreens in the back yard greet you from your kitchen or family room window. They also provide shelter for birds all winter, so your garden continues to harbor life. A bird feeder placed near your evergreens gives the birds the calories they need to make it when snow is blanketing their usual seed sources.

You can also plant evergreens in containers, so if your garden is a deck or balcony, you can have the same architectural accents. Low, rounded evergreens like the Globe Blue Spruce or Bowling Ball Arborvitae provide both color and fullness, and tall spire-like plants direct the eye up toward the sky.

I always counsel people to leave grasses up through the winter. The grass heads are beautiful against the snow, and the movement of grasses in a winter wind adds rhythm to the garden. It's also nice to have some dried flower heads to look at: Hydrangeas in particular keep their shape well throughout the winter, and other flowering shrubs and perennials provide seeds for birds and interesting shapes.

Many shrubs have berries that stay on all winter long. One of my favorites is the American Cranberrybush. The flowers are lovely, and the red berries are, apparently, not so tasty to birds. In the picture you can see the red berries photographed along with a yew in front of my house.

Tree bark can also be interesting in winter. Here's a picture of a River Birch in front of my house; the peeling bark has a lovely color and gives the eye a place to rest. Another tree with interesting bark is the Paperbark Maple. (OK, I can't even type that name without humming "Paperback Writer.")

Now is a good time to be thinking about what we can do in the garden this summer to make next winter's view more attractive.

Yew and Berries
River Birch