It’s cold outside. The annuals have succumbed to frost and the Warblers have abandoned your garden bird feeder for warmer climes. After months of planting, pruning and enjoying nature’s beauty – spending whole days in the glorious fresh air – it seems as if outdoor time is now little more than toting bags of leaves to the curb and shoveling snow.
Hold on! Don’t surrender your connection with nature just because of misconceptions about outdoor living! Your time outside can be just as gratifying in the fall and winter, as long as you throw on a few more layers and give your surroundings a seasonal update.
The same soul-filling colors, smells and vistas are possible with winter-flowering plants, hardy herbs and landscaping tailored for cold weather enjoyment. All it takes is a shift in perspective, some season-specific design, and you can stretch outdoor living well beyond summer.
6 Ways to Make Your Landscape Winter-Friendly
1. In fact, some outdoor features are just waiting for a chance to shine. Think about it: summer weaves its greenery along a yard’s hardscape features like a custom stone path, and it all but hides unique accents such as a vintage iron armillary. But fall and winter allow the stark beauty of those outdoor features to stand out, and they become focal points with fresh interest.
2. A fire pit or chimenea that lent structure to a patio, porch or portico over the summer now comes into its own as a warm and welcoming place to gather with friends or to simply contemplate the changing season. What’s more, a functional fireplace can heat water for tea or cider to keep hands toasty warm.
3. For the vegetable gardener, cooler days mean that plants touted as ‘good for us’ are approaching their peak. Kale, broccoli, Swiss chard and spinach thrive while their less-hardy cousins – tomato, melon and pepper plants – are summer memories. Broccoli and other Brassica plants, in fact, will grow in ground as cold as 40 degrees, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
4. Flowers are also still a vital part of the outdoors as it grows cooler. Sure, soft-pedaled poms won’t withstand chilly weather, but pretty, purple ornamental kale will survive temps as low as 5 degrees. Hellebore is hardy, with its pinkish blooms arriving in the last days of winter. So, too, is flowering quince, with clusters of bright pink or orange-red blooms that rival the most spectacular summer flower collection. And herbs lend their fragrance nearly year round, as sage, French tarragon, rosemary and others are frost tolerant.
5. Change up your outdoor view with lighting. Not only will your surroundings be safer as daylight fades in late afternoon, you’ll discover new charm as snow lands on backlit shrubs and bare trees are silhouetted against the winter sky. Energy-efficient choices mean that utility bills won’t soar with the warmth and depth that outdoor lighting brings.
6. Use your outdoor space for worry-free entertaining. Who cares if crumbs scatter or a drink spills when you can hose things off the next morning? Last year’s Outdoor Furniture Trend Report, from the American Home Furnishings Alliance, showed that parties are moving outdoors more than ever before. Menus get simple with hot dogs or sausages on a stick roasted over the outdoor fireplace. Seating options abound, from natural stone or brick seats and benches to weatherproof upholstered sofas and settees.
With food, friends and, yes, even flowers to savor, you can kick that misconception about enjoying the outdoors through fall and winter right to the curb along with those bags of leaves.