Finding the wonder in your winter garden

All too often gardeners awaiting the arrival of spring fail to enjoy winter landscapes. But winter gardens offer more than bare branches, brown grass and cold temperatures.

Inspired by Milwaukee-based writer Kaitlin Stainbrook’s article “10 ways to enjoy your cold-weather backyard” (Birds & Blooms, Dec/Jan 2022), I’ve taken the concept and adapted it to Texas.

So bundle up, step outside and begin immersing yourself in your own winter wonderland.

Who says a wreath has to be round! Use what nature offers and decorate! All images by Diane Morey Sitton.

1. Make a winter wreath from grapevines. Decorate it by inserting sprays of yaupon berries along with short cuttings of cedar and other evergreens. Include nuts, pods and pine cones. Display the wreath on a gate or door.

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Snow transforms gardens – at least temporarily. Grab your camera and capture the moment.

2. Grab your camera or smart phone and head outside to catch the shimmer of sunlight on frost- covered foliage or a crown of snow on a garden statue. The moment may be fleeting, but once framed and displayed, the images will last a lifetime.

This outdoor kitty shows off his collar of twinkle lights.

3. Invigorate winter landscapes with lights. Outline windows and porches with string lights, wrap twinkle lights around garden art and tree trunks, use solar-powered lights to illuminate walkways, or hang lanterns from low-hanging tree branches.

The sun will soon rise above the tree line, and the snow will melt. Winter wonders are sometimes fleeting. Catch them while you can.

4. Go stargazing in your backyard. There’s no better time to observe Orion, Taurus, Perseus and Gemini than winter evenings when the air is crisp, the sky is clear, and the deciduous trees have shed their foliage. You don’t need a telescope, but if you have one, all the better. You should be able to spot the Big Dipper, Little Dipper or even a shooting star. (Hint: You’ll find the North Star, Polaris, at the end of the Little Dipper’s handle.)

This cutie basks in the glory of early spring blooms.

5. Create a backyard bouquet by gathering snips of early bloomers including paperwhites, flowering quince, forsythia, and daffodils. Display single stems in bud vases or make a bouquet for a porch or patio. Use extra blooms to embellish statuary, gates or other outdoor features.

The first frost of the season is but a sample of winter’s beauty to come.

6. Fight off the chill and extend the season by adding a fire pit table or chiminea to your deck, porch or patio. Soak in the heat while you enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, or bring out the marshmallows for the kids.

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7. Set up a game camera to capture images of raccoons, fox and other nocturnal critters playing in your garden at night.

Brighten winter by cradling a colorful, bird-nourishing wreath in tree branches. It won’t take long for birds to find it!

8. Embellish the garden with nourishing bird treats. Attach orange sections, apple chunks, and sprigs of holly, yaupon and other berry-rich greenery to grapevine wreaths. Place the wreaths over fence posts, attach to tree trunks, or dangle from shepherds’ rods. Slather peanut butter on pinecones, roll the sticky treats in birdseed, and then use a cord to hang the pinecones from tree branches. Make garlands by stringing together loop-shaped cereal and air-popped popcorn. Place the garlands atop shrubs or any location where they will be easily accessed by birds.

Create a permanent garden record — and sharpen your observation skills – by keeping a garden journal. January is an ideal time to start! Click image for larger view.

9. Start a garden journal. Obtain a specialized diary or use a basic notebook. Make notes on what you see, hear, or experience in the garden. Include the names of bird or animal species that visit. List specific dates when plants begin to bloom. When spring arrives, record the types and amounts of seeds planted or the number of cuttings started. Dedicate a separate page to record temperature extremes, rainfall amounts, and occurrences of snow, sleet and ice. Date each entry.

10. Whether you take a picture, watch the stars, feed the birds, or make a bouquet, the best way to use your garden space as a memory maker is by stepping outside and enjoying it year round!

Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
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