Winter can be a tranquil time in the garden. My garden seems so still and quiet once the throngs of hummingbirds have moved on for the season. Winter can be a great time to really look at the bones of the garden. Hardscapes, ornaments, and evergreens provide form and structure. Colorful, blooming flowers and plants often distract the eye during the growing season. Winter, especially with a nice blanket of snow, is the perfect time to make plans for the upcoming season.
I leave many ornamental grasses and perennials standing for winter interest. The echinacea seed heads provide structure as well as food for the birds. Ornamental grasses and evergreens provide winter cover for birds. I leave the grasses standing until they look beaten down by the snow and ice. I usually take them down on a nice day in late winter with the help of my husband. Two people makes this a much easier task.
There are many shrubs and trees available with great winter color. I added a 'Scarlet Curls' Curly Willow a few seasons ago. It takes quite a few cool nights to bring out the red color on the curly stems but it is eye catching. Redtwig Dogwoods also have rich red coloring in the stems. Newer varieties like 'Arctic Fire' stay a little smaller than the older varieties. I like to site redtwig dogwoods where they are illuminated by the late afternoon sun.
Chamaecyparis evergreens come in a large range of colors, shapes, and sizes. I love the golden false cypress (photo above) in the winter. It positively glows on dreary gray days. I also have the blue variety 'Boulevard' that is a favorite roosting spot for small songbirds in the garden.
Cool season annuals such as pansies and ornamental cabbages are a great way to add color to containers. Our winters can be harsh so I plant in pots that are close to the house which keeps them slightly protected. This also keeps them away from the browsing deer and hungry rabbits. I also fill large, empty containers with mixed evergreens and berries for winter interest. Fresh greenery will usually last a month.