The key to the winter garden is tidiness. Keep your expectations minimal this time of year, then perhaps the daffodils and crocus will be all the more exciting. This time of year is about shape and form, the way winter light filters through leaves, the way the frost glistens on grasses.
The mark of good design is what it looks like in winter: is there structure? Is there form? What is the point of interest? Not interest in the typical garden manner: colors, flowers, etc. We are looking at the subtleties here: berries, seedheads, shape of the beds, clean strong edges, nicely trimmed box, statuary, art. If nothing else, it should just be tidy.
And if you haven’t done it yet, do it now. If you wait too long, new growth will be coming up and you will be cutting it off and out when you cut things back.
One of my favorites plants in winter for structure is Miscanthus sinensis. Miscanthus is an ornamental grass that comes in many different varieties, mostly varying in height, although also in foliage and the shape of their tassel. They are one of the best plants for winter structure as they provide height and substance through the winter into February. Unlike an evergreen shrub, the Miscanthus does provide the subtle beauty of winter, being particularly lovely when it gets frosted over and there is a bit of backlight.
Some varieties are bigger and rowdier than others, and all Miscanthus should be cut back at the end February, so be sure to attack them with the snips or hedgetrimmers with vim and verve, as well being ready with the spade to divide them after a couple of years. When cutting them down, do cut them down to about 6″ above the ground.
Photo courtesy of Chrissie28Iwish! – slowly catching up