If you’re anything like me, you love the idea of your backyard looking lovely but have absolutely no clue where to start, and faced with a gardening job, you probably feel considerably out of your depth. Oh how I would love to be the kind of person who carefully tends to their outdoor space every week, knows exactly what flower to plant and when, and how to add decorative details in just the right places for a garden that’s all the neighbors’ envy. But alas my journey is just beginning and I’m going to the quicker wins, instead.
With the colder months on our doorstep, I wanted to know what simple steps I could take to make my modern garden look good in winter. I needed tips that wouldn’t require a landscaping degree, or any previous gardening experience for that matter. To find out more, two professionals in the know have offered me their insights, and I’m taking you with me on this beginner’s journey to make our winter backyards look almost as brilliant as they do during summer. We can do this!
1. Plant winter bloomers and evergreens
Let’s get the most ‘challenging’ bit out of the way. Beginner or not, you will need to get planting (a little bit at least). Lina Cowley, Master Botanist and Senior Editor at Trimmed Roots, advises adding winter blooms. ‘Just because it's colder it doesn't mean your garden can't have beautiful flowers,' she says. 'Look for winter-blooming plants like pansies, snowdrops, or hellebores. These hardy flowers will add a pop of color to your garden and thrive in colder temperatures, so plant them in containers or flowerbeds for a vibrant winter display.'
Tony O'Neill, gardening expert, author, and founder of Simplify Gardening advises adding winter Jasmine for a seasonal bloom, but also highlights the importance of evergreens. ‘Incorporating evergreen plants can keep your garden looking lively and green throughout the year, with varieties like boxwood or holly adding structure and visual interest even in winter,’ he explains.
I love that these are also plants that can withstand the cold, too, with Lina also considering them an integral part of an appealing winter garden. ‘Evergreen plants are a lifesaver for maintaining a lush garden during the colder months,' she says. 'They require minimal care and make a big impact on the overall aesthetic.'
2. Use mulch, stones, and ornamental grass
Full disclosure, I might have done a quick online search on what mulching is and what one's supposed to do with it. It’s basically a protective organic covering made of the likes of sawdust, compost, or paper, and it’s actually used for a lot of things: it helps retain moisture in the soil; keeps weeds, soil, and plant roots under control; and it protects your plants from winter frosts. It can also help to make your backyard look more generally tidy by covering unsightly bare patches of soil.
‘A fresh layer of mulch or some decorative stones can neaten up garden and flower beds, and it's a simple way to elevate the garden's appearance instantly,’ Tony tells me. The next best thing is adding ornamental grasses, instead. As Tony goes on to explain: ‘Grasses like switchgrass or blue fescue remain upright and retain their form while adding texture and a unique visual dynamic even when frosty.'
If you’ve got some good momentum, let’s take this up a notch and incorporate textures and layers. Lina talks us through the steps involved. ‘Creating visual interest in your garden during the colder months is all about using textures and layers,' she explains. 'Mix different types of plants and foliage, such as grasses, ferns, and moss, to add depth and dimension.'
If you ticked winter blooms, evergreens, some ornamental grasses, and mulch off the list, you’re pretty good on the layering front. Anything you add from here on, I applaud you.
3. Get creative with containers
As if to reward ourselves for all the planting we’ve done, we’re now swimming in familiar waters - styling our garden! Outdoor accessories, planters, containers, - you name it - get creative with it.
‘Give your garden a touch of personality by placing decorative planters and containers strategically throughout your space,' explains Lina. 'Choose containers in different sizes, shapes, and colors to add visual interest and fill them with winter-friendly plants like ornamental grasses, heathers, or even dwarf conifers. These eye-catching displays will instantly elevate the look of your garden.'
Why stop there in your outdoor decor? ‘Consider adding garden ornaments or sculptures,’ adds Tony. ‘These can catch snow or frost, creating beautiful winter scenes. Bird feeders can also be a wonderful addition, attracting wildlife and adding movement.' I was sold at ‘beautiful winter scenes’ - that's a picture-perfect setting I definitely want that in my garden this winter.
4. Install outdoor lighting
I love how much impact lighting will make on your backyard, and it doesn’t take much effort at all. ‘Install outdoor garden lighting to highlight your favorite features and create a cozy ambiance,' notes Lina. 'String lights, lanterns, or solar-powered stakes are all great options that are easy to install and can instantly transform your garden into a magical space.'
You can find so many options to buy that won’t break the bank either, and you’ll love the look of your garden in the evenings (especially now that the days are getting shorter).
5. Create a cozy seating area
I will admit, this is my absolute favorite step - saving the best for last. Style a cozy outdoor seating area where you can enjoy the fresh air with a cup of hot chocolate in your hand. ‘Invest in some weather-resistant outdoor furniture or repurpose an old bench or chair,' Lina suggests. 'Layer it with cozy cushions, blankets, and throws, and add a fire pit or a portable heater to keep you warm. This inviting space will instantly make your garden a haven during the chilly days.'
I couldn’t agree more. An outdoor space shouldn’t only be used in the warm months. These tips show that you can, and you should, enjoy your garden throughout the winter too!
Make your backyard look good through winter with these buys
These pots have a rough texture which adds nice variety and interest to your garden. The material is weatherproof, and the planter comes in a variety of silhouettes, too.
There's a magical feel to a beautifully lit garden in the evening. Go for solar-powered lights and use them to brighten up a path or flower bed.
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Raluca is Digital News Writer for Livingetc.com and passionate about all things interior and living beautifully. Coming from a background writing and styling shoots for fashion magazines such as Marie Claire Raluca’s love for design started at a very young age when her family’s favourite weekend activity was moving the furniture around the house ‘for fun’. Always happiest in creative environments in her spare time she loves designing mindful spaces and doing colour consultations. She finds the best inspiration in art, nature, and the way we live, and thinks that a home should serve our mental and emotional wellbeing as well as our lifestyle.
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