Winter can drag on and on, filled with dreary days that keep us inside, wishing for the beautiful colors of spring. The good news is, there are several flowers and plants that can be used to make a winter garden that will brighten up those dreary days and make spring seem not so far off. Plant a winter garden that will add some color to your landscape, even when the snow is on the ground. Keep in mind that different zones will yield different results, and there are some zones that get so much snow that a winter garden would not be practical.
Select a site that will get good sun exposure, even on the coldest days. Many winter flowers are technically shrubs, so you may want to plant them in spots that are scattered throughout the landscape, rather than in a bed. If you do decide to plant your winter garden in a bed, you may want to select an open area with lots of space, depending on which plant varieties you choose.
Prepare the soil for winter flowers in autumn. Turn over the soil with a spade.
Mix in organic matter, such as compost or manure.
Transplant winter blooming perennials or seedlings in early spring. Good choices are winter jasmine, forsythia, witch hazel, heathers, viburnum, clematis, mahonia, sarcococca, Christmas rose, lily-of-the-valley shrub, and firethorn. Be sure that the perennials that you choose grow well in your climate or zone.
Dig a hole 1 to 2 inches wider than the width of the root ball.
Place perennials deep enough so that the soil will cover the roots, but not the top growth. The crown, or place that the top growth originates, should be just above the soil level.
Replace soil around perennials so the roots are well covered. Firm soil around the roots, but do not pack it down.
Apply an insulating layer of organic material once a hard frost has frozen soil, to moderate the effects of temperature fluctuations, which can cause winter damage to plants. Good choices are straw, hay, evergreen boughs or pine needles, because they won’t pack down into an air tight mass. The objective is not to keep plants warm, but to keep them cold to prevent heaving, during alternating freezes and thaws. Place evergreen boughs in two layers, with the top layer at a right angle to the lower layer, or apply about 6 inches of hay, straw or pine needles.
Plant spring flowering bulbs following frosts, but before the ground freezes. They must be in the ground over the winter because they require a chilling period. Bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and narcissus will add splashes of color to your landscape in early spring. Plant winter flowering bulbs such as crocus, star flowers, helleborus, amaryllis, hyacinth, Iris reticulata, Iris unguicularis, glory-of-the-snow and snowdrops in the autumn.
Dig holes for your bulbs with a hand spade. The depth of the holes will depend on the bulbs to be planted. As a general rule, larger bulbs need to be planted deeper than smaller bulbs. The planting depth should be about three times the length of the bulb.
Place bulbs in the holes with the flat side down and the pointed end up.
Refill the hole with soil and pack it down with the back of the hand spade. Place a marker to indicate the bulb’s location when other winter flowers are being planted.
Mulch with organic mulch, such as straw, hay or evergreen boughs.