5 keys for a beautiful winter garden

Beautiful old flower pod under falling snow in a garden

How should you care for your garden in winter? Snezana Gerbault, an agronomist and engineer, packed all her tips in book that was prized in several recent events.

End of November, her book – My garden in Winter – was granted a special prize by the French Garden and Horticulture Journalists’ association: the “Saint Fiacre” title.

Here are 5 tips we learned from this fabulous book to transcend your garden in winter and make it look stunning.

1. Go for Sempervirens

Plan your winter garden early on: sow and add plants that will stay a beautiful green color even during the coldest months.

Of course, evergreens like conifers, boxwood, the Otto Luyken cherry laurel, osmanthus, ivy, photinia, sacred olive, ferns… “Whether they’re silvery, golden, or variegated, leafage will structure the garden and provide colors and texture that will make lively, never boring borders.”

Evergreen leafage offers various textures and dozens of shades of green to set up beautiful winter scenes.

Evergreen shrubs and plants like ferns keep color in the winter

2. Say “Yes!” to colors

Berries and a pair of old leaves from a dogwood treeAdd a few plants that bear berries: holly, hawthorn, spindle, mountain ash, cotoneaster, without forgetting roses, too… They’re both very beautiful to look at, and they help wild animals find food on colder days.

You can also add color with sedum (garden houseleek, especially) and with trees that have a special bark like willow (branches of various colors even serve to make wicker items), dogwood, hazelnut, Tibetan cherry trees, and birch which are particularly noteworthy.

>> Read also: Colorful bark, the best dogwood species

3. Choose designer-worthy plants

Grasses have beautiful seed fronds that sway in the wind and frost all winter longThese graphic plants have silhouettes that streak and sway, they create spectacular landscaping as soon as frost and snow settle in: southern globethistle, cardoon, and common thistle will share their metallic blue sheen in flower beds; echinacea, physalis, spurge, meadowsweet, devil’s walking stick, grasses (miscanthus, calamagrostis, carex, pennisetum, stipa…) and again sedums, trees and shrubs.

Silvery panicles of miscanthus form a beautiful scene on a December morning.

4. Flowers even in winter

Small purple garden flowers cover the ground in winter“Winter blooming perennials share their fragrance and color exactly when it’s need most”: heather, hellebore, snowdrop, pansy, cyclamen, common hepatica, pasqueflower… “Many shrubs also flower in winter, usually while branches are still bare”: Chimonanthus, Hamamelis, winter viburnum, Daphne, Cornus… Another tip is to leave certain flowers on roses and hydrangeas on the bush to give them a “frozen in time” appeal.

5. Secret tip: don’t do your pruning too early

“In winter, it’s all about letting things go, a bit at a time. It’s inevitable… Pruning is of course necessary, but delay it as much as possible. Don’t miss out on the show!
Wait for the last few weeks to cut and remove some plants. No need to clear everything out right away. Let nature live on, admire how seeds are released and begin their travels, collect a few of them for next year, gather leaves in herbariums, tie a few dried flower bouquets together. Let plants express their beauty up to their natural end, all the way to the last leaf and seed”, counsels Snezana Gerbault.

Claire Lelong-Lehoang