In the gardening world, winter is made for planning. Dreaming. Researching and making lists. Gardeners all over the world use this quietened time of the year to figure out plants that work in their landscape, as well as ones that don't. They think through where they might want to plant a new tree by thinking through an area they'd like some shade in.
If you've recently moved into a new home or are working on a landscape, winter is the perfect time to hash out ideas for new (and existing) gardening beds. There are many things to consider, depending on how you want your landscape to work for you. Here are some thoughts on planning now for spring, in the midst of the winter months.
1. Start a gardening notebook.
If you don't have one, now is the perfect time to begin! If you do have one, take this time of the year to jot notes and update it. Write down plants you're researching, or plants you would like to eventually plant. Draw pictures (if that's your thing!) of what you'd like your landscape to look like, or jot down notes about how you want your landscape to be. Figure out what the sun needs of those areas will be (full sun is 6+ hours a day or afternoon sun, part-sun is morning sun with afternoon shade). Sun requirements of a plant are crucial to its success in your garden. Try our plant finder feature on our website, where you can search for plants using a lot of different criteria including sunlight, evergreen or deciduous, fall color, and bloom color.
If this is a new gardening bed or you're new to gardening altogether, also ask yourself questions like this:
"What do I want to put into this new bed?" Besides plant ideas you may have, this includes the time you want to devote to maintaining it (and if you're looking for easy-to-care for plants). This also includes the approximate budget you're working with.
Setting realistic goals will be helpful and keep you motivated as you garden. For example, if you have young toddlers at home, you may not have time (or energy!) to set aside for a lot of planting, watering, and maintaining. That's totally okay (mom of three speaking here!)! Maybe you'd like to start off planting a couple of perennials in that space for this upcoming spring. Or maybe you just begin dreaming and planning now in preparation to plant next year! A great thing about gardening is that you can work in layers- you do not have to plant everything all at once.
Also ask yourself what colors you want to use in this new gardening bed. Some gardeners like to have a cohesive color scheme, so they might primarily work with one or two colors (purple and white, for example). Other gardeners like to use several colors in their landscape. Both work wonderfully, it just depends on the look you like. Which brings me to another question to ask yourself...
"How do I want this gardening bed (or landscape) to make me feel?" It may seem like a silly question at first, but consider this: If you have a backyard that you'd like to landscape, and you'd also like to have BBQs and birthday parties and friends over in your backyard, it is worth your while to think about the atmosphere you want your backyard to have to accomplish this. If you have neighbors on either side of you, you might want to add evergreen trees or tall evergreen shrubs on both sides to create a feeling of privacy in your backyard. Adding shrubs can soften the edges of a house and make a space feel cozier. If you have an area tucked away with more shade, adding shade-loving plants and stepping stones within that gardening bed can create a space in your yard that is almost like a secret garden. If you have children, you could plant a butterfly garden to teach them about pollinators. You might want to add a firepit if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors and want your friends and family to feel snuggly and warm on cool fall nights.
Landscape design, just like interior design, can do a lot to add functionality and create warm, inviting spaces that people want to be in. Outdoor living spaces are popular places to relax in, and if yours is a place you'd like to be rejuvenating, it's a good idea to brainstorm how to make your garden work best for you.
In this gardening notebook, also jot down the plant name and variety of any plant you plant. This is so helpful! That way, if you decide you want more of that plant, you have an easy reference of what it was. Or if a plant gets sick, you know what it is to best address the problem. An alternative to writing it down is to have a clear sleeve or notebook with pockets that you can simply put each plant tag in. Beside the variety name (or on the plant's original tag), write how many you have or what gardening bed they're in, so you can identify which is which at a later date, if you need to.
If you plant a vegetable garden, this is an excellent place to also keep your info in one place. Another suggestion is keeping a virtual notebook and using a spreadsheet.
2. Look through garden magazines and seed catalogs for inspiration and to try new varieties.
There is something about looking through a seed catalog that gets any gardener (or I'd even say anybody- gardener or not!) excited for spring, am I right? Delightful photos of gorgeous flowers and delectable vegetables puts a pep in my step and gets me ready for spring planting! Even if you do not purchase from these catalogs, it gets your mind thinking about what you like or don't like, what colors you're drawn to, and what varieties of vegetables you might be interested in trying. Most companies will send you their seed catalog for free and now is the time they really begin to send them.
Know that we also carry high-quality seeds and bulbs at the garden center throughout the year.
3. Stop by the garden center to gather ideas and see how specific plants look in winter.
Yes, many of our plants are deciduous and will not have leaves during winter, but some boast berries and some even bloom in cold weather (like Camellias, Loropetalum, Witch Hazel, and Lenten Roses to name a few)! Seeing a plant in winter allows you to see how it will look for several months out of the year. It will also help you plan to add a few evergreens or winter-interest plants in your garden, rather than planting plants that only bloom in spring or summer (although there is nothing wrong with that if that's what you're wanting!).
In winter, you also have the added benefit of lots of extra help from us, if you'd like it! We love to provide excellent customer service, and can provide more time with you during these months (verses a busy Saturday in April when we have the greenhouses filled with customers to assist). We are happy to assist you at any time of the year, but if you find yourself with many questions, consider stopping by during these next couple of months. You'll find us here planning for spring and glad to assist you in planning your garden for spring, too!
4. Will you plant this new bed yourself or hire a landscaper?
If you plan to hire a landscaper or landscape designer this spring, go ahead and book with them now. That way you won't be fighting for a time in spring when so many other homeowners are trying to hire them, also.
Soon enough it will be time to dust off our gardening hats, put on our gardening gloves, and pull out our trowels- won't that be fun! Stop by, give us a call at 615-468-2008 if you have gardening questions, or feel free to reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook. Enjoy planning and we look forward to seeing you soon!