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A winter garden does not have to be labour-intensive or expensive.

With a bit of advance planning when preparing your summer garden, you can create a unique garden that will look beautiful year-round.  It is important to consider design elements such as:

  • contrast
  • balance
  • harmony
  • repetition
  • key focal points
Winter will not have a full palette of bright colours compared to a summer garden, but winter plants with bright colours and distinct textures will stand out against a snowy or grey background.

More and more gardeners are selecting plants that are good candidates for shoulder-season gardening, and plants with winter interest.

Five Great Reasons to Create a Winter Garden

  1. Enjoy a beautiful front yard and garden year-round, even in winter. Why settle for a garden that looks great only for a few short months in the summer? Winter is a great time to start planning for your summer garden. Consider planning a garden that will bring you enjoyment and last through the winter as well?
  2. Once created, they are easier to maintain than a summer garden.
    • There's no need for pruning, fertilizing, deadheading, mowing the lawn, or worrying about insects. In the winter, you only need to shovel the paths and walkways, and brush snow off your more delicate garden elements.
    • Larger, sturdier plants and garden elements (such as winter container arrangements or sculptures) become the focal points of your garden, as these have bigger impact on the overall appearance. You don't need to spend as much time fussing over the smaller details that might get lost in the winter.
    • Winter gardens tend to be smaller in area than summer gardens, which makes it easier to plan and maintain these areas. This allows you to focus on major areas and main sight lines (entrances, views from your windows), instead of smaller corners of the garden that might be thoroughly covered with snow.
  3. Attract overwintering birds to your yard by providing natural food and shelter. The birds will thank you, and will also provide great bird-watching opportunities.
  4. Reduce the amount of fall cleanup from your summer garden. Instead of chopping down all ornamental grasses and perennials, let some remain as the snow falls to create visual interest. Some of those tops will fall off during winter, or be easier to remove in the spring when you are pruning and preparing your garden for planting.
  5. Snow harvesting is gently moving snow around to cover bare patches of your yard, or saving extra snow in a shady spot. It's a great way to help insulate a sleeping garden, providing needed moisture during spring melt.

Things To Consider When Planning Your Winter Garden

  • What does your residence look like when approaching from the front? What about alternate entrances (front, side, back?)
  • What does the view look like out your windows, both during the day and night? Are there any rooms that have a wide-open view of the yard? Which rooms are most commonly used and can you see the yard and garden from these?
  • Do you have any evergreens, or any trees and shrubs? Do any of them retain seeds or fruits in winter? Do any of them have interesting bark colours/textures?
  • Are any of your trees or shrubs sculptural, and could these be used to create a focal point or backdrop for a winter scene?
  • In winter, does your yard currently have any colour other than black and white?• What is the typical snow depth in your yard/garden, or where does snow tend to accumulate the most?
  • Do any of your current plants (annuals or perennials) still look good and retain their colour or shape after a light frost?
  • What kind of hardscaping (pathways, patios, raised beds) do you currently have, and how important is it to accentuate these or keep these clear?
  • What kind of secondary landscape elements (lighting, ornaments, sculptures, moveable planters) do you have and can these be used?
  • Do you have any vertical design elements (fencing, trellises, walls)?

Shoulder-Season Gardening

Extend the length of your garden's growing season by selecting a variety of plants that grow and flower throughout the season, so there is always something blooming.

Plan to include early spring blooming plants (crocuses, daffodils), late summer bloomng plants (asters, goldenrod), and cooler spring/fall weather and mild frost tolerante plantes (kale, violets, and snapdragons).

Start seeds indoors in late winter for transplanting seedlings into the garden once outdoor growing conditions are at their best.

Check with a local garden centre, plant or seed supplier for information about your particular plant species or varieties. Some types perform better in spring or fall and are better-suited to creating a shoulder-season garden.

For More Information

Online Contact 311 Online

In Edmonton: 311

Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

TTY 780-944-5555

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