Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
December, 2009
Regional Report

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A deep layer of snow provides a blank canvas for imagining next year's gardens.

A Snowy Landscape Provides a Blank Canvas

The holiday season is winding down, and for those of us who love to garden it can be a melancholy time of year. It will be months before we can dig and plant outdoors again, and soak in the colors and smells of springtime. But the recent winter solstice signals the lengthening of the days, and before you know it buds will begin to swell and the songbirds will return to the landscape.

"Paint" the Garden Anew
On this snowy day our backyard looks like the tundra, with everything blanketed in white, broken up only by shades of brown and gray. But the barren landscape also provides a blank canvas. Without the distraction of summer's bounty, we can paint any garden we want! The possibilities are endless, even in a small yard. What would be in your dream landscape?

Plan for Year-Round Interest
Consider how the garden will look in all the seasons. Start with the winter landscape. Is there anything interesting to look at in your yard right now? If not, consider putting in structures and plants to add dimension during the months when flowers and foliage are absent. A pergola or archway makes a nice focal point. Flank it with shrubs with interesting form or bark -- maybe red-twig dogwood, or river birch with its beautiful peeling bark, or pagoda dogwood with its attractive layered branch structure.

In much of our region snow blankets the ground for at least some of the winter. That makes paths essential. Otherwise, how will you wander through your winter landscape to enjoy the quiet beauty? Plan to add meandering paths that lead to your favorite parts of your yard -- and vow to shovel the snow off them in winter.

In early spring, most gardeners are itching to see signs of life. In addition to spring-blooming bulbs, consider adding plants that burst to life a little earlier than most -- hellebore and witch hazel, for example.

Summer is filled with annuals, perennials, fruits, and vegetables. Since most perennials are at their peak bloom for just a few weeks, remember to select plants that flower at different times. Use containers to provide interest in otherwise lackluster areas. Add comfortable seats act as a reminder to take the time to put down the shovel and enjoy what you've accomplished. Consider what you liked most about your yard last summer, and what was missing. Do you wish for more privacy? (Think fence or hedge.) Was it too windy? (Consider a windbreak.) Did you wish for some midsummer shade? (Consider adding a few trees and maybe a vine-covered pergola.)

Fall in New England is the envy of other regions. In addition to the brilliant maples there are dozens of other trees and shrubs with attractive fall foliage, as well as colorful fruits and berries. Crabapples, dogwoods, and viburnums are just a few.

And now we've come full circle and we're back to the austere beauty of winter, and the promise of a new growing season.

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