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Winter-Friendly Landscape Design

If you live in a climate where winter is harsh, designing a landscape that can weather the winter while still looking beautiful in the summer is a challenge. Here are some easier winter-weather landscape-design ideas that will look great no matter the season.

1. Choose plants where winter is the show season.

Large evergreen trees are not an option for most city and suburban homes, but you can still enjoy a green landscape when you opt for shrubs that stay green during the winter. Popular options include low-growing junipers like carpet junipers or creeping junipers. If you have a little more mild weather in the winter, you can also plant cedar trees; cedar trees are not as effective for very cold weather because they often need to be wrapped in burlap during heavy snowfall and intense cold. Some types of camellias are evergreen as well, and sometimes they can burst forth in beautiful pink flowers in the middle of winter!

Some plants are made to look beautiful during the dreary winter months. For zones 4–9, one of the best plants is the flowering quince. This shrub or small tree bursts into orange-red flowers in late winter, even without other foliage. Another more hardy woody plant that looks festive is the winterberry, which adds a pop of bright-red berries to an otherwise white and grey landscape. With a backdrop of evergreens, these berries can look especially pretty. Other winter florals that will grace a snowy yard are snowdrops, Christmas roses, and ornamental grasses. 

2. Choose easier-to-maintain features.

Some people dream of having beautiful water features and expansive mulch beds in their ideal landscapes. These are more difficult to maintain, and the more plants and flowers you have, the more winterization work you have to do. Choose options that are easier to winterize, and use perennial plants whenever possible to avoid the work of replanting and removing each year. For example, instead of installing a pond, install a pond-less waterfall. You still get the motion and sound of water, but instead of winterizing an entire pond and caring for the delicate ecosystem of a pond, you can simply drain the reservoir of your waterfall and take the pump inside.

3. Opt for paving stones instead of solid-surface patios and walkways.

Poured concrete or asphalt are common options for creating hardscapes. However, solid-surface hardscape can sometimes become damaged during cold weather as it experiences frost heave. Frost heave occurs when the soil swells beneath the surface of your patio due to freezing moisture in the ground. The expanding soil causes your surface to crack and heave upwards, breaking a nice slab of poured concrete into chunks. By using small pieces, like patio stones or flagstone, your patio will move with the ground, and if there is significant ground disturbance, the upset area can be easily repaired to look like new when spring arrives. 

4. Let the snow add beauty to your design.

Snow can actually be a beautiful part of your landscape. Choose deciduous trees like oaks or maples, as they have strong branches that can support the weight of falling snow and display it. Plant box hedges that can hold snow to add visual textural differences to a snowy landscape. If you have exterior lighting, place ice-cream pails over the lights to protect them while still allowing the light to glow underneath the snow cover. Keep pathways clear of snow, but allow bushes and flowers to find their way out of the snow without disturbing it too badly. Finally, try an keep people from walking over your snow-covered lawn. Walking on frozen grass can stress the lawn and create unsightly footprints that ruin the aesthetics of the snowfall. 

For ideas about landscaping for beauty and practicality during the winter months, contact a landscape-design professional in your area.