It’s finally March, which means winter is almost over, and spring is almost here. In some parts of the country and world, this means a lot. But before winter comes to a close and we forget about it until next year, some thoughts on designing outdoor spaces that hold your or your clients’ interest, even on the darkest, coldest days.
1. Use plant material that offers winter interest.
a. Evergreens such as pines, junipers, holly, bamboo, and ivy, to name just a few, offer glimpses of much-needed green at this time of year.
b. Berries that linger throughout the winter give us something colorful for us to look at (two of my favorites are winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) and hawthorne (Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’), and also provide much-needed food for birds and other wildlife. Some fruit, such as rosehips from Rosa species, can be harvested by us, too, for medicinal purposes (rosehips contain a huge amount of Vitamin C; note that care should be taken when harvesting any plant for medicinal purposes – research how to do it before just plucking and eating!)
c. Bark on trees can sometimes be even more beautiful than foliage. London plane trees and sycamores, Stewartias, alligator junipers, and several types of dogwood shrubs are just a few examples.
d. Attract wildlife. Even if the plant itself doesn’t look like much at this time of year, if it’s providing food or shelter for wildlife, then we have plenty to watch through the window from the warmth of inside. Of course, there are other ways to attract wildlife as well (see the previous couple posts) such as adding bird feeders, baths (you can even get heated ones), and houses. Even if your “garden” is a fire escape or a window ledge, you can install a bird feeder.
e. Plant early bloomers. Remember that witch hazel I mentioned on 1/21 (http://tldb.blogspot.com/2008/01/backyard-sanctuary.html)? She bloomed about two weeks ago, and is still going strong:
Spice bush (Lindera benzoin) is another early spring bloomer, and of course bulbs such as snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils are delightful harbingers of warmer and brighter days to come. There are a number of good books out there now on planting for the seasons, as well as for texture, bark, berries, etc. I’ve listed a few on the Therapeutic Landscapes Database Plants page; if you buy these or any books from Amazon.com by clicking on the Amazon Associates logo in the left-hand column, a percentage of the sale goes to support the Therapeutic Landscapes Resource Center.