The Garden in Winter Book Giveaway


Guest Post by Suzy BalesSnowWinterBook.preview

UPDATE FROM SUZY: We have a winner! There were lots of wonderful ideas which made it hard for me
to pick a winner. A big thank-you to everyone who shared there ideas. I chose
Terri Whitelaw because of her combination of humor and practical advise. A sense
of humor is just as important as a good spade in gardening.

Ironically, winter is when we need color most, yet it’s the
season least planned and planted for color. That’s why I wrote The Garden in
Instead of putting gardens to
bed, gardeners should wake them up!
To further my cause, I’ll send an autographed copy of my book to the commenter
with the most original idea for waking up a winter garden. All ideas, even outrageous
ones are welcome!

Until a decade ago, a garden in winter never crossed my
mind. Now, I plant so I can enjoy winter performers out every window. The sight
of a few brave shrubs blossoming under a desolate sky warms the soul better
than the coziest muffler. Although sensible shrubs wait until spring to bud,
winter bloomers gamble setting buds in the fall, clasping them tightly through
winter blizzards, then opening them for us to admire.

Sunflowers stand guard over Suzy's vegetable garden

The earliest blooming bulbs also taunt Old Man Winter with
their lively appearance, as if to say, “You can’t keep us down!” They are also
great multipliers, so why don’t we see lawns of snowdrops, crocus, Siberian
squill and glory-of-the-snow?

Color in any form—structures, conifers, bark, berries, and
foliage—brighten up a drab day. But only gold foliage warms up the garden. It
lets the sunshine in. Think gold conifers, and golden berries.

Conifers, in all
shapes, sizes, colors and personalities, dress up a garden. Some are show-offs,
overdressed and snobbish like the oriental spruce ‘Skylands’. Some are short
and squat. Hinoki cypress ‘Nana Gracilis’ waddles in the wind like a toddler in
a snowsuit. And we mustn’t forget the eccentrics. A Chamaecyparis nootkatensis waves its arms and wears a witch’s hat while
C. ‘Pendula’, a weeper, could be
mistaken for the Cookie Monster. Squint at conifers on a foggy winter day and
the figures dance.

An empty urn left in the garden screams, “a death in the
family.” Poke in an assortment of conifers, Containers broadleaf evergreens, rose hips, or
berries and the arrangement stays fresh to embellish the garden for months in
the cold air. 

Forget cutting down gardens in the fall. Leave sculptural
seed heads to be capped by snow and ice. Even giant sunflower heads on 6-foot stalks
take the winter in their stride. They simply bend a little closer to the earth
and are a beautiful sight to see.

Winter is the most fascinating season, a time to closely
watch changes in plants. It's when I've seen miracles and been confounded by
mysteries. Every plant has secrets to reveal. Have you noticed that the first
glimpse you have of a peony sprout is red, while a Virginia bluebell’s is black
and most bulbs are yellow? If not, you had better enter the contest for a chance
to win a copy of my book. Otherwise, you’ll simply have to buy it.

Enter with your comments, and the deadline is tomorrow at 9 p.m. Eastern.  And to add my 2 cents, it's a beautiful book.

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Susan Harris

Susan’s a garden writer, teacher and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Co-founder of GardenRant, she also wrote for national gardening magazines and independent garden centers before retiring in 2014. Now she has time for these projects:

  • Founding and now managing the pro-science educational nonprofit GOOD GARDENING VIDEOS that finds and promotes the best videos on YouTube for teaching people to garden.
  • Creating and managing DC GARDENS, the nonprofit campaign to promote the public gardens of the Washington, D.C. area, and gardening by locals.
  • Creating and editing the community website GREENBELT ONLINE to serve her adopted hometown of Greenbelt, Maryland (a “New Deal Utopia” founded in 1937).
  • Also in Greenbelt, MD, writing the e-newsletter and serving on the Board of Directors for the cooperatively-owned music and arts venue and restaurant called the NEW DEAL CAFE.

Contact Susan via email or by leaving a comment here.

Photo by Stephen Brown.


  1. My favorite way to liven up the winter garden is to keep beautifully feathered chickens . . . move here and there, stir the compost I pile over the sleeping garden beds. They huddle down in the deep mulch, nap in the afternoon sun, and create an ever-changing canvas of living art.

  2. Plumes of grasses, coneflower seed heads,the bead-like berries that line the beautybush stem….iced with snow and backlit by the setting sun. I put in the grasses, confelowers and beautybush…Mother Nature did the rest.

  3. Coincidence? I think not. I just did a post on this very subject yesterday.

    I need this book for inspiration as I plan and plant a new garden that will draw me outside to wander and putter on even the dreariest of winter days.

    In addition to evergreens that will provide form, color and structure to the winter garden and privacy screening from the rubber neckers on the scenic byway, a collection of boulders awaits a sculptural transformation to enhance the winter garden. The stones have not yet decided what they want to be, a heiau, a pyramid, running monoliths through the forest in a nod to stonehenge. I will go have a chat with them today and see what they have to say. A massive stone sculpture of some sort will pierce the snows of my winter garden.

  4. I have number of ladder-type trellises in my garden beds. I’ve painted them teal. As well as providing color to the garden year-round, they add a vertical accent. I find that teal plays well with all the other colors in the garden.

  5. I’ve been working on my new garden for three summers. I still take pictures of the garden monthly – especially during the winter months – to chart progress and see where the blank spaces are. I’ve planted a leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum), burkwood viburnum (Viburnum burkwoodii), spreading euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovica) – all of which are broadleaf evergreens. A Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) and a desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) shed their leaves but have fantastic branch structure for the winter. I also leave a lot of the spent flowers for structure and for bird food. Like Christopher C, the evergreens are placed to block views – of the hoarder next door.

  6. Happy snowmen are a must for winter interest! Hopefully we will get some packing snow soon. I started from scratch this fall, but the birch tree and shrubs that I bought on sale have made a huge difference in my yard. I am grateful everyday that I splurged on the birch. I plan on visiting a garden nursery next year that specializes in dwarf conifers, and that should really help matters. I had to leave my rocks behind at the old house too, so my front yard is looking very stark. The twigs sticking up that are the lilac suckers that I transplanted here are very sad, and not very worthy of winter interest yet. Sigh… Ideas please.

  7. I think getting out into the weather and understanding that nature is not dead, only moving in more subtle ways, is the only way to survive winter. So this book sounds fantastic!

    Like LauraP, my chickens keep me going. Cleaning out their coop is the only gardener-like activity all winter long.

  8. I came to realize a few years ago that my otherwise stunning garden looked pretty barren during the winter months. After months of research (and searching flikr) I put a plan together and have even given talks as a Master Gardener on the subject. Best tips? Concentrate your efforts on the areas you see most during the winter months, such as the view out a favorite window, path from the car to the door, etc. Colors are muted in winter sun and especially overcast days, so go brilliant. Take an everyday object and paint it a bright color to provide a focal point. Just one. Otherwise? Kitschy.

    The best thing I found to keep the garden lively in winter is to provide habitat for wildlife. Seeing rabbit prints in the snow, watching birds squabble over the feeders, catching the odd raccoon washing himself in the small open pond I created, all wonderful delights.

  9. I bet the book is very interesting! Winter interest is definitely lacking in our yard but I’m aiming to improve that over time. I’m big fan of bark and red twig dogwoods. Anything with that stands out in the winter. We don’t get much snow so we can’t count on blankets of white to decorate the garden.

  10. Some advice would be appreciated on how to make a garden, which can get 4 to 6 foot of snow in an average winter, look interesting. All the shrubs have to be tied like brooms or wrapped to protect the branches from being pulled off as the snow compacts. Some of that does provide quite sculptural shapes for a while, as does a small Corkscrew Hazel which looks at its best in shallow snow. Even the top of an arch covered with honeysuckle and light-splitting baubles and a rosa glauca which must be at least 7′ are barely seen by mid-January. So ideas please.

  11. Little Bluestem poking out of the snow is lovely, but once the street plows come by, it gets buried.

    I’m going to have to move it to a spot that doesn’t get plow piles.

  12. Winter is that time of contemplation and sitting with the seed catalogs…but it really helps not to have to cringe every time you walk through the yard.

    I could use some inspiration! (although, right now, the seed-heads on my anemones are really pretty!)

  13. I mostly ignore the work I haven’t done for winter in the garden. Instead, I wait anxiously for the crocuses (croci?) and plan for spring. In the garden itself, My attention goes to the birdfeeders & the hellebore, keeping an eye on the artichokes & herbs to see what survives each freeze, & loving the fact that my neighborhood is full of evergreens.

  14. Living in zone 8, I can have flowers all winter; Cyclamen, Winter Jasmine, Sasanquah Camellia, Asian Mahonia, and Erica heath, but I have also put in a number of plants with colored bark; Acer conspicuum ‘Pheonix’, Acer circinatum “Pacific Fire’, Cornus sanquinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, and the yellow twigged dogwood (the name of which escapes me right now). A number of Calluna heathers turn bright reds, oranges, and bronze in the winter, too. We need fiery colors in our gray Seattle winters.

  15. I’d like some gold or weeping conifers, but they are tres cher. (Very expensive don’t you know.) So, regular joes have to rely on grasses and dried seed heads, which isn’t a bad thing at all, but it can be just too much color in the earthy-brown family. Or black. I don’t need to see black in January when it’s -20. And don’t say dogwoods as an answer–rabbits devour my shrubs like I devour Godiva. Viburnum, dogwwod, spiraea, buckthorn–I can’t create shrub winter interest.

  16. Many years ago I had recall a similar titled book that I saw on the way out of a bookstore. Those images have never left my mind! I’m just happy to a name and title for a book on the same subject. Winter gardens should be a must for every home that has to deal with snow!

  17. I live in a suburb where there are several areas dating from immediately-post-Civil War; a couple of the old large farms were broken up and the land was granted to former slaves. Some of their descendants still live in the little houses with beaten earth front yards, and at least one house has a bottle tree. I passed by one winter day and saw how lovely the green plastic bottles were as the low sun shone through them and transformed this lowly material into something magical. Not to mention, they are very useful for trapping evil spirits and keeping them out of the way.

    So, I started my own bottle tree, although I use cobalt blue bottles (surprisingly hard to find these days), and they are planted on gracefully bending bamboo stakes planted in the middle of a big blue hydrangea. In the summer they are unobtrusive, blending with the hydrangeas, but in winter they are remarkably bright and beautiful.

  18. Our garden gets many feet of snow every year, so winter interest is always a challenge. We’ve put in several different shrubs – dogwoods, viburnum, corkscrew hazel and yew. We’ve also put up three different types of trellis, one with kiwi, one with honeysuckle and one with clematis, all around the perimeter of the yard. When we had to cut down an apple tree that had gotten to the end of it’s life, we decided to leave the trunk whole and upright, the aim was for a large sculpture as a focal point. We have added a stone inuksuk about three feet high in one corner of the front, tucked behind the rhododendrons. The snow swirls around it, much like a cozy blanket.
    I do have a weakness for kitsch which my husband has managed to restrain. My one silly is a large (three feet high again) garden gnome guarding the front door in winter, complete with wreath hat. The one addition this year was a five foot long knarled root system that a friend gave me. It is beautifully silvered, and I didn’t just want to leave it on the ground to be buried. I strung it on the trellis against the house, where the clematis dies back each year. It provides a beautiful natural sculpture that I see as soon as I pull in the driveway.
    Since my garden is very small, I keep with natural colours and materials, but use textures and shapes. With one obvious silly to make me laugh.

  19. Please enter me in the contest. I’m going to go ahead and play the injury card. I have a broken ankle and can’t get outside right now. Having a little winter interest outside my windows would definitely help my mental state!

  20. I live in a moderate climate ( we had our first snow since 1976 just last week ! ) so winter is still garden season for me. Of course, it can still get dreary if you simply think of winter as a dead time. Me ? I leave the seedheads on the coneflowers & the hips on the last of the roses, providing food for sparrows & finches – or homegrown tea in the case of the rosehips. I plant roots & salad & cole crops in the veggie bed, keep zygocactus & camellias within view enjoy the violas volunteering in the mulch & pathways & anywhere else they can get a foothold. And if at all possible, I run outside to capture with my camera the fog or frost or drizzle on the crispy browns and the youthful greens in my yard, so I’ll remember them when I can’t get out there.

  21. I’m in!
    It seems like 13 months of winter!

    My ‘artic’ cat and I tour my gardens and take pics of plants and things either partially buried in snow or plants covered in thick ice and icicles.

    When my fingers are frozen the cat and I come in for a hot tea and purr session as I load the pictures into a public album.

  22. Winter here means one thing: rain.

    There may be a light frost on the neighbor’s roof one night, and the camellias will bloom, and the roses are full of rust, if still blooming, and non-gardeners think the plants look just like they do in summer, but winter is our one big chance for free water, rain, the good stuff, the gift from heaven that means not only no rationing the following summer, but brown hillsides that turn velvety green for a couple of months, and a bountiful spring.

    We count the inches, all ten or twelve of them.

  23. I keep lots of evergreens–so I always have life–and I hand lots of different types of bird feeders–to keep birds around to brink life to my little garden.

  24. The best winter color shrub I ever saw was the red stems of the Siberian Dogwood. It looks so lovely in the snow!

  25. Like Benjamin, we can’t spring for choice evergreens just now, and are happy with little stone cairns, spires, and walls to shape the snow. All the dried & crumbling foliage remains, some for the birds, sure, but more so I can remember I had plants and that they will resurrect themselves soon. I sing the lines from a Bonnie Prince Billy song to cheer me up drily: “it was not death, final, it was only fall.”

  26. I’ve been struggling with winter interest in my zone 4 inner ‘burb yard. Our only evergreens were an ancient pair of foundation yews. When we had to take out our Norway maple, the yews started to get severe winter burn, so out they came, and then we had no green at all. We added a dogwood for a splash of color. PJM rhodies for leaves. Rudbeckia for the seedheads. Then we tore out our concrete front walk and put down a curving stone path. It’s amazing the difference it makes in winter! The warm, dark stone shot through with rich reddish-brown tones is such a gorgeous contrast to the piles of snow around it. I never would have thought of a walkway as winter interest, but it totally is. This year we saved up for a weeping white pine. It’s quirky and straggly and years from being filled out. So for the holiday season, I bought an oversized red Christmas tree ornament and hung it from the tip. It looks like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, and it gives me a smile every time I see it.

  27. I share with rainymountain a cetain frustration with those of you who have gentle winters. Up here in the Adirondacks, tho, the white, gray and green is beautiful. I’m glad to appreciate the limited palette of winter. But I do envy you those treasures like witch hazel that may bloom in late winter (somewhere).
    I am taking to heart the idea of a structure – trellis, arbor, obelisk or tower – painted a bright color for the winter.
    It’s always good to have a new idea to try next growing season. Thanks!

  28. Evergreen topiary–a la Pearl Fryar–guarantees a garden will never be boring! Cut a Leyland cypress into a fishbone or a Juniper into an abstract sculpture and you will have something interesting to contemplate in your garden even in the coldest of winter months.

  29. I personally need color more than I need oxygen and my solution is MOSS. Moss flourishes on rotting logs (which I also love) and rocks. My children and friends all know to give me moss covered rocks as holiday gifts (not procured from public places). At temperatures less than freezing, the moss is a lighter green and “tucked in.” Any temperature above freezing, it springs up and turns bright. If you have a lot of snow, you just need boulders covered in MOSS.

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