How to make the most of your backyard in winter - 4 ways to bring life to your space despite the cold

These ideas will brighten up your backyard during the depths of winter

house with backyard in garden
(Image credit: Doublescape Photography. Landscape Design: Fossil Landscapes)

When winter comes, it's only natural that we focus our attention on the interior of our homes. As part of a seasonal cycle, we accept the idea that low temperatures and unfavorable conditions steal away the attraction of our backyard for a few months and shift our focus indoors for the foreseeable. 

While it's understandable that you'd want to spend your time snuggled up in the warm, you can still get plenty of joy from your backyard through winter, even if it's not the sight of rich greenery or an afternoon spent basking in the sun. I spoke to a gardening expert who gave me four easy tips to make the most of your backyard in the cold months so you can bring life to your lackluster landscape. 

1. Introduce some outdoor lights 

festoon lights in garden trees

(Image credit: Ruslanshramko/Getty Images)

They might be the backdrop to your balmy summer evenings, but winter is also a fitting time for some backyard string lights. With longer nights and seasonal festivities on the agenda, they can create a magical feel in your outdoor space. 

‘Just about everything looks better with lights,’ says gardening expert Michelle Chambliss, adding that she tends to illuminate evergreen trees in her space. ‘Decorative lights on unexpected types of plants like cactus or citrus can create a sense of whimsy, too,’ she explains. Even if your trees and shrubs have lost all their leaves, wrapping some lights around their branches can add a beautiful twinkle to their structural shape. 

Of course, there’s more to lighting up your backyard than just the aesthetic element, and it's not only about lighting your way in the dark, either. ‘On the practical side, the lights also help keep marginally hardy plants a degree or two warmer on cold nights,’ says Michelle. 

2. Use branch trimmings and twigs for outdoor arrangements 

Trees and shrubs might lose their leaves this time of year, but that doesn’t mean they lose their charm. ‘Branch trimmings pruned from deciduous trees can also make great decor for pots in a sheltered area like a courtyard,’ advises Michelle. This is an opportunity to get creative with your winter garden, utilizing everything nature has to offer to make something beautiful. 

‘Branches can be festooned with lights or left unadorned if the form and bark are interesting,’ adds Michelle. She also points out practical aspects can be mixed among these decorative ideas. ‘I like to use branches as a natural support for cold hardy sweet pea vines,’ she says. 

3. Add winter-blooming plants 

winter pansy in pot outside in snow

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Low temperatures don’t mean you have to sacrifice color. Winter blooming plants are a great way to retain visual interest in your outdoor space, so make sure you plant these to enjoy your garden in the colder months too. 

‘They're always welcome because they lift our spirits during the holiday season and beyond,’ says Michelle. ‘Depending on the region, cyclamen, hellebores, cultivars, and the annual johnny jump-up, Viola tricolor, are just a few of the plants that can bring the color we crave to our winter gardens.' 

4. Welcome birds to your space

Cedar Waxwing perched in American holly tree with berries

(Image credit: William Leaman/Alamy Stock Photo)

Don’t let your backyard be depleted of life, even in winter. You can still welcome birds and enjoy the sight and song each day, and it could be as easy as not cutting back your foliage. ‘Welcoming birds can be as simple as leaving perennial flowers and grass seed heads in the garden instead of cutting them back (which I know is very tempting!),’ Michelle tells me. 

Think about attracting birds by providing not just food, but water too. ‘Whether supplying birdseed naturally or by feeder, don't forget that birds also need fresh water,' Michelle goes on. 'Placing a durable yet decorative birdbath in a sheltered area where it can be seen from inside the home invites birds to gather, drink, and bathe. The birdbath not only looks pretty, but it can be quite entertaining to watch the birds go about their business on a cold winter's day!’ 

Winter needn't be limited to interior decor. There are opportunities to bring joy to your outdoor space and turn your backyard into a relaxing haven even during the coldest months of the year. 

Raluca Racasan
News writer

Raluca is Digital News Writer for 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.