Extension Education Spotlight: Renovating Your Garden in Winter

Guest Author: Linda Langelo, CSU Extension Horticulture Agent

While the garden is dormant, now is the time to take a look at your landscape.  Are there problem areas or places that need a “facelift”?  I am not just talking about old plants that have overshadowed or are choking out others.  I am talking about adding a new garden bed in a troubled area of turf that you can never seem to keep healthy or creating a new path or views in the garden.

Assessing your own landscape can be difficult.  Landscapes deal with 3 different spatial relationships. These are 1) horizontal, 2) vertical and 3) ceiling — the sky.  Within your landscape space, you can create any experience you want.  Often connecting the vegetable garden to a small perennial area can create a better use of space and experience.  It is in the transition between one area of space and another that can really enhance a garden.  Transitional spaces can be created by “doorways” such as a pergola or a small archway to walk through or a deck or patio to reroute the journey to the next space.

a trellis in a winter garden
A trellis adds a vertical dimension to your garden.

Connecting the vegetable garden to the perennial area several feet away with groupings of small shrubs, trees, or groundcovers creates the pathway between the two areas. The shrubs, trees or groundcovers create a path to and from both gardens.  Using shrubs, trees or groundcover adds some attraction to the landscape.

What would you renovate?  First, any plant material that is dying and decaying.  Second, clearly define areas as to the use of that space.  A grass or mulched path lined by groundcovers defines that space as a walkway.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do you want people to travel through your landscape? Do you want them walking anywhere?
  • What do you want them to see when they visit your landscape?  What do you want them to see throughout the season?
  • Do you want a formal, balanced setting where garden areas are clearly designated from one space to another?  Or do you want a freer feel with accent pieces of plant material for different views in the landscape?

Trees, pergolas, awnings and any overhead structures can be used as horizontal features in the landscape.  Walls, hedges or trees can be used as vertical features in the landscape.  The vertical feature can create an enclosed feeling and decrease the line of view so that the visitor only sees a small piece of what is outside that garden space.  The vertical feature such as walls, hedges or trees does not need to be continuous.  If it is just repeated, such as a hedge every 10 feet with an opening in between, then the visitor gets the mental picture to move forward to the next landscaped space or leading to an open space or an exit or entrance.

The winter lays bare all the structural elements in the landscape.  Now is the time to walk through the landscape and decide if a pathway is not working or needs to be enhanced; or if other features are working or not working the way you thought they might.

Making a rough sketch on paper can help visualize how a new landscaped room might fit into a new space.  Initially, you don’t need to measure, that can come later.  For most people, seeing something on paper can help them see the finished product.  Be sure when you choose plant material that you understand the mature size of the plant, the correct zone and soil structure needed for healthy growth.  Then the next step is making decisions based on your budget and maintenance.

Renovations don’t have to be massive projects.  Small changes can make a big difference.  There are endless amounts of new plant introductions on the market, if you want to spruce up an area.  One thing about gardens is they evolve for better or worse over time.

About CSU Extension

CSU Extension empowers Coloradans to address important and emerging community needs using dynamic, science-based educational resources. For over 100 years, CSU Extension has helped people in Colorado find the answers they need for a healthy home life, successful business and thriving community. We bring the University’s research-based resources to local communities across the state.

Access helpful Yard/Garden information from CSU Extension at extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden. Keep up with the latest from our CSU Extension horticulture experts at csuhort.blogspot.com.