Fall & Winter Garden Decorating

Your Garden Room- Fall & Winter Garden Decorating

Last chapter, we discussed taking a fresh look at our gardens, walking around and seeing it from different vantage points. I hope you are continuing to do this as we head into fall- fall is a great time to restructure the garden, take notes, and start any new beds we may want to put in. In the fall, it is relatively easy to either kill off or smother any lawn in the area, layer on mulched up leaves and topsoil, then in the spring, just plant right through this enriched mix. We can spend the winter pouring over all the catalogs that come in, dreaming about all the new plants we heard about at the ‘Growing with Master Gardeners’ conference, and figuring out where to plant them for great plant combinations.

Autumn is a wonderful time to find out what plants look really great in the fall, and which ones really fizzle out and detract from the picture. Personally, because my garden is so small, there really isn’t room for anything that doesn’t look good for at least three seasons. Some plants I keep around because they really pick my spirits up in the spring, when I need it most, and they just fizzle out and disappear the rest of the year, like the spring bulbs and etherials, but at least they don’t detract from the garden the rest of the time.

Fall is also a great time to get a jump on spring by cutting back perennials, cleaning things up, applying a mulch of chopped up leaves, or compost, and decorating the garden for winter. Don’t be too hasty to cut back all of your perennials though. Some plants look absolutely beautiful with a fresh dusting of snow, like Hosta seed pods, and sedum ‘Autumn Joy. Some seed-heads and berries are great for attracting birds to the garden as well, and should be left for them to enjoy. Goldfinches like cosmos, purple cone-flowers and black eyed susan seeds. Other birds like berries in the winter too- and berries can also create fall and winter interest, porcelain-berry vine is gorgeous in the fall, with its aqua, blue and purple berries and some viburnum varieties have lovely red berries, and lovely fall foliage as well.

Find a few places that you can see as you come and go, or from your favorite window, and plant some spring bulbs there- plant a few different kinds- some early and some late. It really only takes a few to really pick your spirits up early in the spring after the long cold winter.

If you have large planters that you use for mixed annuals in spring and summer, you can also use these to decorate your garden in the winter as well. Look for evergreen prunings on trash day around town, or take some cuttings off of your own, use a variety of textures and colors, simply poke the branches into the potting soil to hold them, add in some branches of red or yellow twig dogwood, milkweed pods, teasles, some red berried branches, like hawthorn, add a bow if you like, and it will be pretty all winter long. I usually fill several planters full to overflowing in this way, and simply discard the cuttings in the spring when the soil thaws out. It’s a great way to decorate your entry ways and nearer parts of the garden.

I leave out a sturdy and weathered wooden chair in my favorite spot, and have been known to use it on a nice warm winter day, just to be outside in the garden. Put a garden bench or chair on your porch and decorate it with an old plaid blanket, and a pile of wrapped packages decorated with greens and pine-cones.

Besides decorating for fall with the usual scarecrows, pumpkins and corn stalks, there are loads of interesting decorative items to hang near your entry ways. And for the winter season, how fun is it to lean an old sled or pair of wooden skis and poles by your door, perhaps wiring on some greens and a sign about the season that appeals to you. My favorite sign has a snowman on it and reads: ‘Will work for freezer space’.

So don’t despair over the end of the growing season! Take down some notes about things you want to think about changing in the spring, maybe start those changes now, so you have someplace to put those plants that you will be ordering after the holidays. Put in some spring bulbs for early spring blooms. Decorate your garden for the fall and winter season so it looks pretty when the snow falls. And then find a cozy spot by your favorite window, curl up with those catalogs and spend the winter dreaming of the season to come.

See you in the garden!
Ellen Leigh

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