(Family Features) - There may not be a lot you can do in your garden during the winter months, especially if you're in a colder part of the country. But there is plenty that you can do right now that will keep you connected to the garden you love while helping you prepare to get your hands dirty in the spring.
Evaluate the structure of your garden. The human body has a skeleton that gives it structure. The garden has a similar framework which is made up of the permanent and structural items and plantings. Trees, shrubs, paths, ponds, arbors, trellises and benches are all part of a garden's bones. And with few leaves to get in the way, winter is a good time to see how your garden's framework is holding up. Study your garden's bones from all vantage points.
- Look at tree and shrub sizes and see which ones have gotten too big for their current location. Do they need to be moved or will a good pruning bring them back into scale?
- Are there unattractive areas, such as the house foundation or a fence, that need something to screen them off?
- Examine the lines created by garden bed edges, sidewalks and the driveway. Do they help create a natural visual flow from one area to another? Beds may need some reshaping, and the hard lines of a sidewalk may need to be softened with plantings and mulch.
Make sure you have plenty of winter interest. With many plants dying back for the winter, gardens can be uninspiring, to say the least. Gaping holes in the landscape, flattened, nondescript areas and a distinct lack of color are signs that you need to perk things up for the winter.
- Evergreen conifers come in all shapes and sizes, and they are not all just green. They add height, texture, color and scent to an otherwise dull landscape - and they look great in the snow. Look for interesting combinations of shapes and colors, keeping your garden's particular sun and water conditions in mind.
- When the leaves fall off of some plants, a beautiful new sight is revealed. Whether it's the brightly colored branches of a red- or yellow-stemmed dogwood shrub, or the beautifully peeling bark of a river birch, the colors and textures of branches can look great in a winter garden.
- Look for architectural features to add to the landscape. Arbors, trellises, bird baths and garden art can catch the winter light, create intriguing shadows and frame interesting views.
- Another way to create winter interest is to resist the urge to cut back the perennial grasses and plants that have gone dormant. The feathery fronds of pampas grass glow in a winter sunrise, and the dried blossoms of a sedum 'Autumn Joy' catch snow and attract small birds. What do you have that brings some subtle beauty to the garden?
Dream, plan, and dream some more. Load up on seed and plant catalogs, research what will work in your area, sketch out new ideas, think through plant rearrangements, and have fun making plans. When spring time finally arrives, you'll be ready to turn your winter dreaming into reality.