Deb Babcock: Winter the time to plan a garden

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

— Winter in Steamboat is a great time to think about what you might want to do in the garden next year to enhance your enjoyment of it.

Although there are some great computer programs available to do this, I use notebook paper and start with a simple crude drawing of squares and rectangles alongside my walking paths to indicate the separate areas of my garden. For the plants and structures already in place, I draw in circles or ovals with a letter inside identifying the plant, picnic table, etc. on a key.

In a notebook where I keep information about each of the plants in the garden, I note whether it flowers and the bloom color, height, spread and time of year when it blooms. I also note its water needs so like plants can be grouped together. This information helps me determine whether I need an early- or late-season plant nearby to cover a bare spot while the plant is small or after it has been cut back after its bloom.

When you have the current garden layout drawn, it's time to start dreaming of enhancements you want to make. You can pencil them in and see how they'll affect the overall look and feel of your garden. It's easy to erase it and try a different area or idea if your first thought doesn't pan out.

Here are a few enhancements to consider:

Along a bare wall or fence, perhaps some lattice work or a trellis might be nice. Some clematis, hops, honeysuckle, climbing rose or other climbing vine could give dappled light, color and aroma, and break up a large expanse of wood, stone, brick, or wire fencing.

If the garden looks uninviting during the winter, maybe add some tall ornamental grasses or a couple of beautiful evergreens. There are lots of deciduous trees and shrubs to consider for your winter landscape, as well. Many of the willows that grow in this zone have beautiful red, orange and yellow branches once the foliage has dropped. I've always loved mountain ash for its bright red-orange berries that stay on the shrub well into winter.

Other touches you might consider as you plan your dream garden are garden sculptures, topiary, fountains, bird baths, sundials, boulders, benches, stepping stones, etc. A wind sculpture brings movement to the garden year-round whenever the wind blows. Or to help hold water and add interest to a steep slope, consider burying chunks of logs or large boulders in the soil. Or to keep rainwater from your roof from eroding soil, build a dry stream bed to funnel the water away. Surround the rocks with hardy sedums that tend to spread onto the sides of the rocks for an attractive look.

Other attractive garden ornaments might include antique wrought iron garden gates, old doors, antique ranching equipment and gardening tools. In the right place, they add a touch of interest and can enhance nearby plantings.

Even though you can't go out into the garden right now, you can dream about it this winter.

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