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Winter Garden Design Tips

January 15, 2016

It’s easy to neglect your garden design project in winter, but here’s the thing: winter garden design projects may ensure you have a garden ready to enjoy in time for spring or summer!

NW Flower & Garden Show Designer garden

Dream up loads of garden ideas this winter at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show!

Remember summer? When your house was an oven and you were desperate to find a cool, shady outdoor spot where you could actually enjoy those long, sunny days? Bet you don’t want to go through another summer crunching across dead lawn instead of relaxing on a beautiful, cool, shaded patio.

Restorative summer garden sanctuary

Want to enjoy your own restorative garden this summer?
Start with a winter garden design scrapbook & plan.

Whether you’re a DIYer or a DIFM (“do it for me”) kind of gardener, there are a number of fun and easy winter garden design tasks to undertake right now.

  • Visit a Garden Show: The garden show season takes off at the beginning of the year, offering great look, listen and learn opportunities for new gardeners and homeowners of every stripe. A few of our favorite (or dream-of-someday-attending) winter garden shows:
  • Learn from Parks & Botanical Gardens: Okay, it’s raining. So what? It always rains and sleets and is cold in winter. Bundle up and get outside to find inspiration in what’s happening in finished gardens in the middle of winter.
    gathering garden design inspiration

    Visit a local park, botanical garden or historical garden to gather ideas for your dream garden design this winter.

    Ending up with a “winter wasteland” garden won’t happen if you know what works well in your area during the winter months. There’s no reason your garden can’t look fantastic all year —  even when you’re gazing at it in January from the cozy comfort of your warm winter window seat. We love the Washington Park Arboretum Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden, the Bellevue Botanical Garden, Kubota Garden and The Chihuly Glass Garden in Seattle in winter. For other locations nationwide, see our A-Z Garden Tour page.

  • Pin & scrapbook: Winter is the perfect time to create a book of elements you want in your garden — even if you aren’t ready to hire a designer. Tearing sheets from your favorite magazines or building Pinterest boards will help you hone in on your most wanted garden design elements. (Steal from our Pinterest ideas here!)
    frosty rhododendron

    Can you remember what color your winter evergreens bloom come spring?

    If you have them, include photos of your current garden, including imagery that shows what color that big old rhodie blooms in spring and what dormant perennials will emerge from the soil come spring. If you know plant names, jot them down in your notebook. If you don’t know the name, every photo will help. Sometimes it may seem like you’re grabbing at straws, but an experienced designer will be able to help you drill down on what you’re really after and what will actually work in your landscape.

  • Set a budget: Even if you have no idea what a reasonable cost will be for your dream garden, you probably know how much you can afford to spend. When you arm your designer with an understanding of your finances, s/he should be able to help you prioritize your work to get you the most bang for your buck. The great thing about creating a garden is that most can be built in phases. So dream big and aim for what you want knowing you’re creating a living space that will continue to grow with you.
  • Start a Design: If you need professional design help, begin gathering referrals and set up appointments right away. Or heck! Just fill out our contact form now, and we’ll be in touch shortly to get you started – whether you need a full design or just a consultation to get you past any blocking issues.
    Garden Mentors winter garden design consultation

    Hire Garden Mentors to get started on your garden design project this winter.

    If you wait until spring to make those initial calls, your design project probably won’t start until late spring or even summer, which means you’ll be building things out much later in the year – so much for that summer garden. Following the first really warm, sunny weekend in spring, our office is inundated with calls from excited, anxious-to-start homeowners who want their garden ready to enjoy yesterday. Please don’t be that person; we hate to be the bearer of bad news. If you’re a DIYer, start measuring your space on a clear, dry day. And, begin mapping out a project plan, adding that to your scrapbook project.

  • Test your soil: Your garden is a living space, and much of what’s alive relies on what’s underfoot for its survival. Investing in soil health is critical to building a garden that will thrive. Not investing in your soil may set you up for a garden that limps along or simply fails, resulting in a huge loss of investment. Ordering an inexpensive routine soil analysis from an accredited lab like Amherst Soil Lab is a great way to get started in understanding the ground below you.

Once you dive into your garden plan, you’ll have a fun, inspiring project to get you through the cold, dark, wet days of winter. Your cabin fever frustrations will melt away as you throw your energy into designing healing outdoor garden spaces. Planning your garden will help break up winter’s tedious gloom. Whatever you do, don’t hibernate all winter and hope that your garden will suddenly appear when you exit your cave come spring.

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