As the last of the fall leaves flutters to the ground, our gardens often look like barren wastelands. It can feel like Winter just becomes a season to survive through until the greenery returns in spring. With a few simple plant selections though, you can take your garden from desolate and dreary to thriving and cheery.
The easiest way to create a visually interesting garden year-round is to combine deciduous and evergreen plants. Evergreen plants keep their deep green foliage through all seasons and create excellent structure for any kind of yard.
Whether you have an established garden you are looking to spruce up (you have to love a good evergreen tree pun), or have a blank canvas, installing a few evergreens can breathe new life into your space. Consider evergreens as the bones of your planting design.
Some fantastic NW native evergreens to consider incorporating in your yard are:
Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant) – ground cover
Kinnikinnick/Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) – ground cover
Wintergreen (Gaultheria humifusa) – ground cover
Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) – shrub
Low/Dull Oregon Grape (Mahonia nervosa) – shrub
Oregon Box (Paxistima myrsinites) – shrub
Salal (Gaultheria shallon) – shrub
Grand Fir (Abies grandis) – tree
Shore Pine (Pinus contorta) – tree
Western White Pine (Pinus monticola) – tree
Evergreens are perfect for creating visual interest all year long, but they are also vital to keeping critters cozy during the rain, wind, and general cold.
Birds, especially those little twittering songbirds, need to have cover to hide away in. During the winter, when all the broadleaves are gone, evergreens are their last stronghold.
Consider evergreens as the bones of your planting design.
Did You Know? WA native birds that benefit from WA native evergreens include thrushes, waxwings, chickadees, grosbeaks, and finches. Learn more about native plants and birds from the National Audubon Society.
To really make your yard worthy of winter, you can include non-plant elements such as:
A stump surrounded with ferns with a sculpture balanced on top will be interesting to look at in any weather. A few birdhouses painted in vivid hues is beneficial for the birds and makes for lovely décor.
Take your garden from desolate and dreary to thriving and cheery.
Need a pop of color? Don’t feel like you have to wait until spring for beautiful blooms. Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) does lose its leaves in the fall but has brilliant red twigs that brighten up any garden.
If you are looking for more ornamental plants to really make an impact, you can’t skip out on hellebore, pansies, witch-hazel, winter heath (Erica carnea), Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica), and winter daphne (Daphne odora).
Fall is the perfect time to get your winter garden ready. As leaves are lost, you can start to see where an evergreen or winter bloom would fill in. Many nurseries and garden centers have decorative items on clearance, so you can find some treasures for a steal. Just be sure that whatever you place in your garden can handle rain, wind, and a freeze.
When shopping for plants, be sure to avoid ones that cause more harm than good. English holly (Ilex aquifolium) emanates winter cheer but is an invasive nightmare. English ivy (Hedera helix sp.) is another lush evergreen to stay away from. Discover more about plants that cause problems from the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, King County Noxious Weed Control Board, and the Washington Invasive Species Council.
With a little thought and some dirty hands, you can create a space that you will love to look at no matter what season it is.