Awhile back I read a fascinating article in Organic Gardening magazine themed If you want a garden that is beautiful in all seasons, start by focusing on winter.

Experienced gardeners know that the winter garden is the structure—the permanent bones—of  any landscape. When we get the winter garden right, everything in  spring, summer and fall looks better. And winter is the perfect time to sit cozily beside your  window and think about your garden’s bones because the beautiful distractions of your favorite flowering bulbs/plants/shrubs are absent.

Here are my top five (paraphrased) from the list of tips by author Gordon Hayward for a successful winter garden:

  1. Examine your trees and shrubs. Have you included weepers that display the snow in interesting ways? How about River Birch or other trees with interesting bark?
  2. Consider grasses. Tall, ornamental ones will hold their plumes in winter and define the movement of the wind.
  3. Do you have winter-hardy ornaments, such as sundials, sculptures, bird baths or urns?
  4. Birds are the flowers of winter. Attract them with evergreens, seeds and berries.
  5. Finally, be sure to tidy your garden in fall so it has a clean, tended look throughout the winter. (I know from experience that I’m happier and more eager for spring if I can look out on a peaceful snowscape during the winter months instead of a tangled, overgrown mess from last summer.)

In winter we learn to appreciate a quieter, more solid beauty—one based on order, shape and the pleasing contrast of textures. We can more easily step back and see the garden as one large, cohesive design rather than a collection of individual specimens. When the “bones” are aligned in an orderly fashion, according to  an overarching theme, the result is beauty and harmony.

Hmmm…I wonder how these principles might apply to other areas of life besides gardening?