by Brenda Trenner
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
On a winter's day, when you are dreamily paging through the garden catalogs, venture to the window to see the magic your garden unfolds with its endless designs, curving beds and spidery branches casting their silhouettes on the ground. Notice the earthy tones of dried perennials, the lichens on rocks, left over seed pods, spiky tufts of ornamental grasses, soft nests of the day lilies, colorful stems of many shrubs and the entrancing texture of the tree bark.
Ancient gardens were first planted as a source of food and medicinal herbs. Later the Romans developed decorative features to hold the grapevines and Egyptians clipped trees into columnar forms. Temples were erected surrounded by gardens for people to enjoy the peace and serenity found there. In Medieval times, gardens derived patterns with geometric beds, fountains, walls and walkways. The Renaissance brought an awakening of the beauties of nature, adding structures to the planted areas. The Oriental influence brought a return to naturalism. Gardens today are combinations of the gardens of the past, with the viewer seeking nourishment for the body and the soul.
Spring brings the promise of new life, as buds appear and plants begin to grow. In summer we are nourished with flowers, fresh vegetables and wildlife nurturing all our senses. Autumn gives us a spectacular array of color as plants begin to fade. But winter is the most magical of all. For in winter, the garden unveils all of its hidden textures.
The dead, dried forms of leaves, flower heads, seed pods and the woody textures of stems and bark provide special interest to one who views a winter garden, especially if dusted with snow or frost. The thorns of roses, barberries and cotoneasters glisten on a frosty morning. The red stems of the dogwoods, the yellows of the Scotch brooms, the volume and spiky texture of the ornamental grasses all add a glow to the landscape. The corky ridges of the burning bush collect snow, changing the shapes of the branches. Vines add texture to walls and buildings, softening the edges with their curling tendrils.
Some varieties of roses produce fleshy fruits, called hips, as they ripen, providing a texture almost as pretty as the flowers themselves, with colors ranging from bright orange to crimson to deep black. Other shrubs have colorful berries that add contrast and texture.
Groundcovers provide softness to the winter garden. Hidden during the full bloom of summer, these exhibit lobed or scalloped edges and smooth or hairy leaves in winter. Some excellent plants are the big foot geranium, sedum, creeping phlox, and purple iceplant.
Trees are the most magical of all the plants in winter. Casting long shadows on the ground below, they display twisted and gnarled trunks and branches that can stand straight and tall or bend and soften with the snow. Some tree barks are smooth. Others have deep ridges and furrows adding a variety of textures to the winter scene. White oaks have gray checkered bark. Crabapples have multi-hued plated bark and the apples that decorate the branches during winter. Hawthorns have a smooth, dove-gray bark, which cracks with age and peels, leaving a cinnamon colored underbark. Another tree known for its cinnamon bark is the river birch. The Japanese tree lilac lends a purplish bark. An interesting texture is found in the corky trunk of the elm tree or the gnarled branch of the mighty oak. One of winters most stately trees is the Kentucky coffeetree with its scaly bark, ridges and long bean-like pods which last throughout the winter. Another tree with flattened seed pods and black furrowed branches is the redbud. Pines, firs and junipers provide tiered, irregular and spreading branches to the landscape, some with prickly cones or scales, as well as different shades of greens and blues that are often unnoticed during the summer. Yews also lend color and contrast to the winter scape.
The addition of a garden bench, statues, pots, globes, trellis, small fences, gates, rocks, mulch, stepping stones and pathways will add texture to the garden and beckon your imagination as their shapes change covered with snow.
Viewing your winter garden, with all its hidden textures will allow you to enjoy your garden year round, so when choosing some of those plants from the garden catalog be sure to look for texture as well as color. For information on plants contact Colorado State University Cooperative Extension in Larimer County at (970)498-6000.
Q. When is a good time to plant garlic?
A. Mid to late October is a good time for planting garlic. Break apart the garlic cloves, planting them as you would any fall-planted spring bulb. Plant them 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart with the tips pointing up. Cover with a thick layer of mulch, about two to three inches. Water them during dry periods in the winter. They will begin to appear in March.
Q. Can I keep left over seeds to plant next year?
A. In Colorado, vegetable and flower seeds can be stored on a shelf, at room temperature, for at least one year without significant loss of germination. A 10-year storage life can be achieved by drying seeds to less than 8 percent moisture. You can dry the seeds in a conventional oven at 100 degrees F. for six hours, keeping the oven door open. Never use a microwave. You can also dry them in the sun or shade. After drying, place them in a moisture-proof container and store in the refrigerator or deep freezer. Good seed storage results when seeds are kept dry and in temperatures below 40 degrees. The drier the seeds the longer they will store.
When you experience stress from everyday events, try spending some time with nature. This may be accomplished by adding a swing, bench or other point of interest in a secluded corner of your yard/garden where you can go to relax.
Hoses should be taken care of like other garden tools. Like tools, it is best to buy the hose of better quality. It should also be kept up off of the ground to lengthen its life.
Not looking forward to another colorless winter? Try digging up a few annuals and bringing them indoors. Remember to check for insects that would also enjoy the warmth of your house in the winter.
Applications are now being accepted for the Larimer County Master Gardener
Program. For information or to receive an application, call the Cooperative
Extension Office at (970) 498-6000 or visit the web site at www.larimer.org/extension
(click on home page, horticulture and master gardener program).
The authors have received training through Colorado State University Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program and is a Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.
Gardening and Insect Fact Sheets are available on-line by clicking HERE.
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