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GardenSMART :: Winter Landscaping Tips to Stimulate Your Senses

Winter Landscaping Tips to Stimulate Your Senses

By Kate Karam and Justin Hancock, Monrovia
Photographs by Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

Left without most of its foliage and flowers, our winter gardens take on a different tone. It may be cold and icy where you live, but there's still a sense of magic. Fresh coats of snow remake the yard each time they fall. Birds and animals are revealed as they revel in our trees and shrubs. New sounds and scents are now amplified by the quiet of the winter season.

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There are plenty of strategies to make your garden "show" in the snow-from graceful arches coated in winter white to windswept vistas that sparkle under the barely warm sun. You can make it more, though. Enjoy a garden that engages all of your senses-even in winter-and makes you want to stop and linger in the great outdoors. Here's how!

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Contrast the crisp whiteness of the snow with colorful, structural garden elements. It's easier than you might think to introduce festive hues with painted arbors, gates, or fences. Or bring in natural color from trees and shrubs like coral bark maple (Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku'), red twig dogwood (Cornus 'Ivory Halo'), or yellow twig dogwood (Cornus 'Flaviramea'). Visual interest doesn't have to be color alone. Also consider texture from sculptural plants like weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Pendula') or Snow Fountains weeping cherry (Prunus Snow Fountains).


Snow can do funny things to the sounds in our garden over winter. Sometimes they're amplified, and other times they're hushed. Leave your ornamental grasses standing so they stir in winter winds. Bring in the happy sound of songbirds by planting dense evergreen shrubs to give them shelter. Then close your eyes and just listen.


When it's cold, we want to race right from the car to the house (if we don't have the luxury of an attached garage!). Don't overlook the tactile aspects of your garden in winter. Many conifers (including most pines) produce a sticky, amber-colored sap that lingers when you clip branches for decor. Plant White Bark Himalayan birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) to run your hands over its smooth, papery bark.

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Not a lot of blooms? That doesn't necessarily mean your winter garden is without its scents. Many conifers offer a crisp, seasonal scent when you stroke the branches. And pay attention to winter-booming shrubs like witch hazel (Hamamelis 'Jelena') or viburnums that bloom in late winter or early spring. And be sure to pluck a frozen crabapple from your tree, warm it in your hands, and breathe in the sweet fruity smell. Nothing like it!


Even though the fall bounty has passed, your garden can still offer some tasty treats. Take rose hips, for example, for a warm winter tea. And leave some snacks for the wildlife, too. Learn more about winter plants and gardening at


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