Celebrate Winter

The night is freezing fast,
Tomorrow comes December;
K. E. Housman

Celebrate Winter
The final leaves of autumn have fallen and while winter does not officially begin until December 21, everyone knows that winter begins the day after Thanksgiving. But instead of turning our backs on winter, hoping only that it will be short, let’s celebrate it by creating gardens that are beautiful year-round, including winter.

Several books and many magazine articles have told us what to plant in our gardens for ravishing winter displays; but again, they have been written by people who live in warmer climates with different soil, and are, therefore, useless to those of us who live in the Midwest.

We think first (and usually, only) of coniferous (cone-bearing) evergreens. We plant a green mustache of yews round the foundation of our house, then we install the ubiquitous Colorado Blue Spruce somewhere on the property–at first in scale to the rest of the landscape, but wildly out of balance as it grows taller and wider, dominating the entire landscape..


But interesting, lively landscapes and gardens can be created, using native trees and shrubs with interesting shapes This is a Redbud (Cercis canadensis).


…or with persistent leaves or berries. These belong to Illinois Rose (Rosa setigera)


…or with colored, exfoliating, or textured bark. This is Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonoifera)

In addition, prairie grasses and forbs have showy seed heads and pods that are ravishing in the snow. This is Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Various amenities such as birds, animals, water/ice, and man-made structures, such as fences, gateways, trelliage, and stone walls or pillars provide more enchantment.

I’ll be exploring these possibilities with you all winter plus lots of other subjects, such as my book list, the Arts and Crafts movement, sustainable living, garden design, and whatever else is topical. So keep on logging in and join the conversation.

My book Design Your Natural Midwest Garden makes a wonderful Christmas or holiday gift and you can order it right here.

4 Responses to Celebrate Winter

  1. Trish Beckjord December 1, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    Pat, love this! you are so right about winter gardens. To me they can be some of the most interesting as the branches against the snow create some wonderful graphic designs!

  2. sigi psimenos December 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    Dear Pat- Thanks for sharing your blog- it lightens my heart!

  3. Mary Alice December 1, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    Nice photos, Pat!

    While I miss gardening, winter is special to me. I enjoy observing birds, crosscountry skiing and winter sunsets. Experiencing the slow coming of spring is a joy in itself.

    I’m planning to spread native seed in a nearby woodland and wetland very soon!

  4. Sue December 4, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    Hi Pat,
    Perfect blog for today. the snow looks fabulous. I love your blog. Sue

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