Instead of letting your garden tools gather dust this winter, use them for decoration. This project does require a bit of commitment since you’ll need to drill holes to hang larger pieces, but it’s so much fun when it’s completed. Hang your garden tools in the shape of a Christmas tree and add ornaments and garlands for a festive touch.
Wicker is my go-to item for an outdoor party. If you can’t afford to buy a new set of wicker lounge furniture, a wicker plate charger is all you need. By planning ahead and buying in the winter months, you can always find a deal at a local showroom or thrift store. With this classic base, be sure to add character with a favorite plate that matches the personality of your guests. No matter if you choose a modern square plate or gold-rimmed china, your wicker charger will add the right element of relaxed style to your party.
This low-growing groundcover sprawls in a thick mat of stems and leaves that turn burgundy in the fall and stay red all winter, bringing color to the garden when everything else is dead. Sedum spurium is native to the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia and can take temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero. It produces tiny, star-shaped pink flowers that butterflies adore. Plant it on a sunny slope or in a container and let it trail over the edges. Zones 3 to 8.
Blanket flowers make an ideal addition to wildlife gardens, because the flowers never stop. The blooms beckon all kinds of pollinators, including bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Seed heads on plants are a winter favorite of seed-eating birds like goldfinches and native finches. Blanket flowers are versatile in the garden, working well in many theme gardens, including cutting, low water-use and native plant gardens. This blanket flower variety is Mesa Yellow. The Mesa varieties all grow well from seed. Plants grow 14 to 16 inches tall and 20 to 22 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
Usually dwarf Alberta spruce is a go-to plant for adding an air of formality to gardens. But the topiary forms also lend themselves to playful garden whimsy, like this pom-pom spruce decked out with sun hat and shoes. It’s a great choice for a children’s garden. If your dwarf Alberta spruce develops brown needles or dead spots due to winter burn or spider mites, you can always prune out those branches to create your own one-of-a-kind topiary style.
Be creative as you design a trellis for your pea plants. Traditionally gardeners use fruit tree and shrub trimmings to craft a twig trellis. You can do the same thing with twigs that winter has tossed onto your lawn. Simply stick pencil-thick twigs into soil beside peas as you plant them. Another option is to string netting between stakes. This easy trellis (above) supports pea plants with a double row of twine that runs alongside plants. Insert stakes at either end of your pea plant (or every 4 to 5 feet for long rows), and wrap the twine around stakes to create a tight support. The plants will grab one another and the twine for support.
Color reigns in this statuesque selection of a native tall prairie grass. Windwalker big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii ‘PWIN01S’) unfurls powdery blue leaves that turn shades of plum and purple in fall. In autumn, burgundy seed heads stand even taller above the tinted leaves. Windwalker has a strong upright form that retains its shape through winter. Cut clumps back to 3 inches in early spring before new growth begins. Plants grow 5 to 6 feet tall and up to 2 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 5-8.
Candytuft often attracts butterflies with its spring blooms, which can last for weeks. Give your plants a spot in full sun, and avoid heavy soils that stay wet during the winter. The plants grow about 6-12" tall and will slowly spread to make a pretty groundcover (but don't walk on them). Use this evergreen as a border, in a rock garden or let it spill over a wall or from a windowbox. After the flowers die, give the plants, which are hardy in zones 5-9, a light shearing to keep them bushy. 'Lavish,' shown here, has beautiful, deep lavender flowers.
Few plants offer so much sensory appeal as scented geraniums. The group includes a wide variety of foliage forms and plant sizes. Flowers tend to be smaller than traditional bedding plant geraniums. When crushed or rubbed, scented geranium leaves release their volatile oils. Fragrances include citrus blends, rose, peppermint, nutmeg, apple and cinnamon. The lemon scented varieties seem to possess the strongest skeeter-repelling characteristics. Scented geraniums make beautiful container plants. In cold zones, move plants indoors for winter or root cuttings to keep plants alive until spring.
If you want to try growing figs, but aren't sure which varieties to choose, try an assortment of rare varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The company says you'll get three small plants of two varieties; the flesh may be pink, green or red, and they'll thrive outdoors in zones 7 to 11. Gardeners in colder regions may be able to grow these trees with winter protection.
Also known as Arabian tea jasmine, ‘Maid of Orleans’ (Jasminum sambac) is usually raised for its perfumed blooms. The blossoms also make a refreshing flavored water. Simply place flowers in cold water, refrigerate overnight, and drink in the morning. This jasmine thrives indoors or out, although it’s only winter hardy in Zone 10. Indoors, keep it in a bright southern window with temps above 65 F. ‘Maid of Orleans’ grows into a shrub form. Prune as needed to control and direct growth.
Canary-yellow flowers appear with leaves when this magnolia bursts into bloom. Blossoms are roughly 3 inches and stage an eye-catching show when a tree is in full flower. Introduced by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1981, ‘Yellow Bird’ makes an ideal specimen or shade tree in a yard. The shape is strongly pyramidal, and the branch form is attractive in winter. Site this magnolia in full sun to part shade, providing mulch over the root zone to help soil retain moisture. This is a large tree, growing 20 to 30 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
David Austin's 'Charlotte' is one of the most beautiful of the yellow English Roses. Its charming upward-facing flowers feature an exquisite open cup shape and a soft yellow hue that mixes easily with other colors in the garden. It has a strong, delicious Tea rose fragrance. It is an excellent repeat-bloomer and is one of the hardiest English Roses, handling colder winters well. 'Charlotte' grows to 4 ft tall by 3 ft wide. RHS "Award of Garden Merit." (David Austin 1993, Auspoly).
From an icy blue and white color palette to touches of silver and rich, menswear-inspired fabrics, see how a lackluster bedroom gets a winter-inspired makeover full of the season's hottest trends. In this design from Brian Patrick Flynn, a collection of framed artwork and photography is simply leaned against the wall above the entry’s console table. A small table lamp made of mercury glass helps reflect the light it emits once switched on at night. A mirrored console table serves as the base for this lovely white and silver vignette, featuring silver frames, white hydrangeas, silver bird accessories and a white faux deer head.
After Christmas, those once festively adorned spaces on tables and in bookshelves may feel empty. Warm up the winter months with hints of natural greenery, especially in shades and textures that differ from traditional holiday hues. “Greens are a soft accent for the house,” says Karin Jeffcoat of Cote Designs in South Carolina. Here, she used reindeer moss that is preserved to give it that chartreuse color, but you can also forage items, such as magnolia leaves, from your own yard.
This evergreen shrub is a workhorse in a shrub border, delivering strong year-round color. Evergreen winter leaves provide a beautiful backdrop to white, bell-like blooms that appear in spring. New leaves emerge fiery pink, fading to white-edged green in summer. Plants grow 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9. Good to know: This pieris doesn’t need pruning, but accepts it easily if you need to keep it a certain size or shape. For best results, prune after flowering.
There’s an ornamental grass to fit every landscape. Prairie Winds ‘Totem Pole’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum) is the go-to grass for tight spaces. This selection of a native tall prairie grass forms a sturdy upright clump with a small footprint. Plants grow to 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Steel-blue leaves bring subtle color to plantings. Seedheads appear in late summer and linger through winter. ‘Totem Pole’ works well in containers, or count on it to add a strong vertical element to planting beds. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Give your yard some springtime drama with the deep black-purple blooms of Black Tulip magnolia (Magnolia ‘JURmag1’). This stunner boasts perfumed, goblet-type flowers that measure 6 inches across. Black Tulip is one of the darkest magnolias on the market, with flowers appearing before green leaves emerge. Trees bloom at a young age and have an attractive branch structure in winter. This is a small tree, reaching 10 feet in 10 years. Use it in a dooryard garden so you can savor the fragrance each spring. Plants grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.