What's new in the garden as we start the new year?

January 15, 2013|By ANNETTE IPSAN |

It’s a new year. So what’s new in your garden? 

Winter is an ideal time to do some garden planning. You’re not digging or dividing, weeding or watering.

So there is time to think about what you want to do differently this year.

Grab your coat and take a walk around your yard. Winter reveals the “bones” of your garden, the basic structural elements.

So it’s easier to see what’s missing. Do you need to add height, shade or screening with trees? Mid-height shrubs? Groundcovers? Layers add richness.

Make notes on what you want. Maybe it’s an evergreen screen to hide a neighbor’s new shed.

What about a flowering tree to replace that cherry that toppled in a storm? Tall grasses would give movement to that blank spot near the driveway.

Add it all to your winter wish list.

How about hardscaping? These are the permanent nonplant features like pathways or walls.

Hardscaping can add year-round interest, function, accessibility and texture. Think of flagstone paths, stone walls and patios. What would make your garden more livable?

Look for focal points. These are elements in each garden area that draw the eye and pull together all the surrounding elements. A fountain, birdbath, arbor or plant with strong contrast can all be effective focal points. Carefully place a few to give your garden a finished look.

Next, connect the dots. Are your garden areas linked visually or physically? The best designed gardens flow smoothly from area to area. They repeat plants or shapes — called rhythm and repetition — have workable paths and lead you from one garden “room” to another.

Pop color. Pump up the color volume in every season. Think witch hazel in February, bulbs in spring, crape myrtle in late summer, fiery fall trees and winterberry for snow time. Add a few seasonal stars for year-round wow.  

Texture is often the forgotten design element. But combining textures gives gardens artful appeal. You can’t help but touch the waving tassels of ornamental grass, shaggy birch bark, shiny bergenia leaves or velvety lamb’s ear. So, toss some texture in your plan, mixing hard and soft, glossy and fuzzy, sharp and smooth. 

Now stop. Think. What makes you happy in your garden? Fragrance? Add perfumed flowers. Do you love to cook with fresh herbs?  Make a list of new ones to try. Do you need more cut flowers, tall flowers, groundcovers? Think of what you admire in others’ gardens and bring those ideas to life in your garden.  

Is your gardener’s notebook full yet? One of the greatest joys in gardening is the endlessness. There will always be new vegetables to try, new flowers to grow, new trees to inspire. Gardeners are always learning, sharing, growing.  

Want more? Join the Master Gardeners. We learn together, give back to our community and grow friendships along with our gardening knowledge. We’re accepting applications for classes starting in February. Call or email me for details. It’s a great way to bring something else new to the New Year. 

• Annette Ipsan is the Extension educator for horticulture and the Master Gardener program in Washington County for the University of Maryland in Washington County.  She can be reached at 301-791-1604 or

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