More than just a Summer Garden

More than just a Summer Garden

Stop and think of what a beautiful garden looks like to you. Is it packed with colorful flowers and loaded with leafy texture? Maybe it’s a natural woodland garden with a ground covered in ferns and sedges brightening up the shady forest floor. Or your mind may wander to an English cottage garden complete with boxwood hedges, roses, hydrangeas, and a lush green lawn complementing the structured space. What do most typical beautiful garden images all have in common? They are only imagined in summer! That doesn’t do much good for us here in the North Star state. We have a potential for six full months of snowy weather which can be depressing for us Minnesota gardeners just dreaming of lush green summer gardens.

But wait… what about a beautiful winter garden? Why not design gardens for year-round color, texture, structure, and interest? No, I’m not talking about using fake plastic plants. There are many Minnesota hardy trees, shrubs, and perennials that pack a punch throughout the winter season along with adding structure, food, and cover for wildlife, and even colorful cuttings for your winter flower arrangements.

There are hundreds of varieties of evergreens including pines, spruces, arborvitaes, hemlocks and firs that have foliage of golds, blues, silvers, and greens. You can incorporate a Weeping White Spruce for a green pillar reaching straight as an arrow to the sky or a stout Mops Falsecypress to add some golden glow to a semi-shaded space. There are even evergreens with glossy leafy foliage such as the Green Velvet Boxwood or the Cannadale Gold Euonymous which add structure to even the most informal space. Evergreens are the easy go to for a winter garden, but many times these look the same no matter what the season, leaving gardeners wanting more variety for their snowy landscapes.

That’s where some of my favorite plants come into play. There are a multitude of shrubs and perennials that not only flower and add color in the spring, summer, and fall but also pull double duty by bringing interesting and colorful berries, bark texture, and seed heads to the winter landscape. One of my favorites is the Autumn Magic chokeberry with white spring flowers, glossy green summer foliage, bright red and orange fall color, and clusters of persistent black berries throughout the winter. Rugosa Roses are a great choice packed full of summer flowers which then turn into showy bright orange and red rose hips adding much needed color to the frigid winter months. There are dogwoods with red and golden stems in the winter which can be pruned and used for winter potting arrangements. Even flowers like Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ and Rudbeckia hirta can catch the snow on their upright stiff seed heads adding structure and interest in a snowy winter scene. Don’t forget about the Minnesota hardy ornamental grasses that extend fall color right into the snowy season like Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurescens’ and Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’.

With all this winter color, texture, and interest, it’s hard to not consider the cold snowy months when designing a beautiful Minnesota garden. Once you incorporate some of these seasonal beauties in your garden, those drab winter days tend to be just a little bit brighter.

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By BLC Landscape Sales and Design

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