A Home for Your Gnome

Gardening Advice from a Fan of Fun!

The Garden in Winter

December 9, 2023 | Design, Plants

The Unsung Season of Beauty

Snow in Tennessee is as rare as planets aligning but when it does happen it is truly magical.

I have always been a “list” person. My thinking is that there is a much less likely chance that you’ll forget something if it’s written down. Lists also help keep you calm as they free up space in your brain for important things like what’s for lunch. I will confess that when it comes to our garden not every little thing is written down. One task leads to another and in no time my day is over.

As we approach winter (my favorite season), the list of things to do grows short as do the days. With less to do there come the gifts of reflection and observation. Features that are usually overshadowed by spring blooms, tall summer perennials, and changes in leaf color in the autumn are more noticeable when the garden gets quiet. Bark color and texture (that is a non-player in the other seasons) suddenly show off, especially if you are wise enough to have landscape lighting.

Candy-colored berries on plants such as winterberry holly (Ilex verticillate) and American holly (Ilex opaca) are a main attraction, at least until they’re discovered by hungry birds. If you were tolerant enough to allow faded perennials to remain, there is magic in seeing spent blooms hold an early morning frost. Many of those faded flowers are also a great source of food for birds. Coneflower (Echinacea) being one of the best.

Even without snow, there is beauty in the variety of textures in this winter garden.

Snow can be a welcomed treat for those of us in the South but I don’t know anyone who likes ice. That is unless it’s contained in a garden pond. Then some really cool things can happen. I have a small floating de-icer that keeps our small pond from being sealed and the waterfall keeps providing oxygen to the water for our fish buddies. I love it when icicles hang from the perfect rock that is cantilevered over the pond and it’s even more showy at night. You can read more about this in an earlier post I’ve written.


Our garden pond takes on a whole new look during our short winters.

As beautiful as bark, berries, and icicles can be in a winter garden, I don’t think many could argue that snow, no matter how rare, is the real transformer. Not only does a fresh blanket of white hide all of the small imperfections in a garden, it also reveals any plant’s structure and form. The winding branching pattern of a large bonsai-like Japanese maple is revealed by a light snow like never before. Weeping conifers such as Norway spruce (Picea aibes “pendula”) and weeping Alaskan cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis “pendula”) take on a Dr. Seuss-like appearance when dusted with snow.

It doesn’t happen often but a late snow transforms the blooms on this Paper bush (Edgeworthia).

This is not a long post as I know time is a precious commodity during the holiday season. But I just wanted to encourage you to step outside the door even though it may be gray and bleak and find beauty where it is sometimes overlooked.

Happy Winter & Merry Everything!