Winter Dormancy Leads To Spring Bloom


Viburnum in Ice

Since the winter dormancy is upon us, many of you are looking back to garden successes and failures planning for better gardens next spring. Some even blog about those successes and failures. Do you look at your garden to wish Winter away because there is little worth admiring in the garden at this time of year?

Viburnum placatum

Viburnum in Flower

As a designer, I have had to design large gardens over Winter for early Spring installation. Some of these gardens took all Summer to complete. Winter is a great time to take a look at what needs improvement for Spring and what could add some interest during that “down” time of Winter.  Gardens in cold climates are designed to look good in Winter as well, even having conifers to decorate with and for the season.  The image above has up-lights that make that icy Viburnum have winter character on cold Winter nights.

I certainly admire how gardeners are reading their seed catalogs, gardening magazines and books, but I have always looked to Winter as MY dormancy. A time to relax in a similar way the plants are staying warm and snoozing away the coldest season. Time for fewer thoughts on gardening, well actually landscaping. But I make sure the garden looks nice in Winter.

Under all that snow and ice, the perennial plants are biding time until the Spring rains awaken them to start their job of producing new plants by seed or other biological preference. The evergreens are doing their job as shelter for birds and Winter garden interest. I am doing no garden jobs, just watching the birds flutter about and the pretty snow coat the conifers. But what about winter dormancy? It is doing its job quietly in the background, working hard underground, protecting above.

My tiny 2016 garden is shown above in a fluffy white snowfall last week, then again from Spring 2015 in bloom. Those large terracotta-colored pots hold perennials like phlox, monarda, coreopsis, and miniature goldenrod, bulbs, and self-seeders which next Spring will start to grow tall and look similar to the 2015 images below. Under a mulch of Fall leaves, those perennials are just starting to leaf out in our very mild Winter.

My garden goes untouched during Winter letting Fall’s leaves mulch the garden. The only thing I do is make sure the visiting birds are fed, watered and safe. Plants can wait until Spring.

The front garden, shown in both Spring and early Summer below, also goes through major growth with much of it sprouting and blooming without much assistance or gardening effort. The biggest job is trimming the boxwood. The plants between the boxwood just do their own thing with occasional thinning or cutting back. You can see below I let the penstemon, Veronica, and Salvia all go to seed.


There is a lot of perennials and self-seeding annuals in a tightly packed garden. I do quite a few posts with garden tips, like how to control plants tightly packed each season. Check out the posts from 2015 to see my garden change through the year. Each month a whole “new” cast of players appears.

So what about you? Winter interest in your plans? How about showing your winter garden, then contrasting it to early Spring. Maybe that will inspire you in either direction. Maybe it will inspire others.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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33 Responses to Winter Dormancy Leads To Spring Bloom

  1. I love your photos from winter. Your garden has such great winter interest.
    I would never have thought to pot up some Monarda and phlox. What a great idea. I think I’ll try that this spring.
    Thanks for the tips.

  2. swo8 says:

    Oh Donna, your garden is lovely. I can’t wait to get working in the garden again.

  3. Søren says:

    Here in Denmark winter lasted all of three weeks, it seems. Today I planted three shrubs along the eastern fence, and tomorrow I’ll be planting the last tulip bulbs that I didn’t get in the ground before the frost…

    The pace is picking up!

  4. It’s apparent how well designed your garden is. It’s small, but it looks great– even in winter!

  5. Normally I enjoy this down time but this winter has been a busy time in our garden, working at restoring our new property, removing invasive plants and clearing brambles. We need to get as much of this area clean-up before venomous snakes wake up and make it a dangerous task. I like comparing winter to spring/summer gardens. The quietness of the winter garden is very calming and I find it provides its own silent energy.

    • You do have a lot of work with the new property. I would not be too pleased to be sharing it with rattlers and copperheads though. Winter/Spring comparisons really show a lot in most gardens. Some gardens, very little happens until Spring. That is one reason I like the snow. Gardens often can look wonderful newly coated in white.

  6. You say your garden is small, but what a lovely, creative use of the space! I am chomping at the bit to get outside and get my hands dirty. Come on, Spring!

    • Thank you. It is very small, especially compared to other city properties. We lost some of it to emanate domain long before I purchased it. An alley was removed and the property awarded to the street behind us.

  7. Winter gardening is very big for me and a new and exciting season starts October 15 with the first fall snowdrops. Right now it is hardy cyclamen, arum, hellebores, and more snowdrops. I guess I don’t go dormant, but I don’t go out into my own garden in freezing cold weather which is coming our way soon.

  8. I always get such great tips from the information you share and your very informative photos.

  9. alesiablogs says:

    I have much tree pruning to do as branches are going over my roof. It is going to be an adventure! Not for my pocket book though. I am hiring a person who knows what to do so I will make sure to keep the beauty of the trees , but the home safe.

  10. Kevin Hilton says:

    Your garden looks brilliant, even if it is winter! Great photography too! This was a very enjoyable post for me. Can’t wait for more plants to bloom as the months go on!

  11. Maria F. says:

    So much to learn from what you say, and your before and after images really make sense. My project is a beach garden, that I don’t seem to finish because since it’s a beachfront, the idea is to make it self-sustaining. So, the plants that finally survive will finish the garden, only the drought and salt tolerant plants which have been planted, but I’m not ready to take a picture of it yet. I am self-taught in this, so I’m going slowly. I will also add a “beach garden” section in my blog soon, with the salt tolerant plants.

    The garden is in the downstairs of the building where I live, so it’s not my private garden. The administration pays me for the materials. I also have a little garden that’s in a sheltered corner, where I’ve had beautiful Calatheas, and brightly colored foliage plants from the Arum family, and it’s a shadowed garden mainly which does require watering everyday. Overall, however, the tropics makes use of highly drought tolerant ornamental plants, all over the island. The climate is very sunny and hot, so only those plants can stay beautiful in this weather. Examples are: the Bougainvilleas, the Scheffleras, the Jasmines, the Yuccas, the Palms, and of course the Hibiscus and the Allamandas.

    • Thanks Maria. You really do have a much different way to garden. Salt spray is a big concern, as is the wind of a beach location. I cannot imagine the heat either that face plants. You do have such a great selection of beautiful plants though. When in St. Lucia, my cousin grew much of what you have. I was most amazed at how big the plants grew.

      • Maria F. says:

        Yes, there is no change in seasons, so the vegetation rarely changes. There is a rainforest here, however, so that brings more biodiversity.

  12. Oh I love the icicle !

  13. I find it hard to focus on winter interest. During winter I like to dream of warmer seasons past and future. I probably spend more time thinking about non-gardening topics during winter.

    • No surprise. You have mentioned many times how winter gardens do not interest you. I am not a dreamer. I take what life throws at me and enjoy it no matter the season. In winter, I often have to think of what to install in designed gardens come spring, but that is work and not what I would choose to think about. Off to Maui, so there will be plenty of flowers in bloom.

  14. As an amateur gardener, I tend to worry a lot during winter. Especially with the very sudden temperature changes we’ve had [from 25ºC one day to 0º the very next with no intermediate stage for the plants to adjust. After 12 years of taking care of my Thuja, a two day frost managed to damage it and I fear that freeze damage has gone all the way to the roots [for the most part]. At least I had moved many of my sensitive plants inside [our living room looked very much like a florist shop!], thus saving them. [during the past 2 months I’ve been taking the plants in and out at least twice a week – no fun at all!!!]
    Your garden looks beautiful all year round and its dormancy echoes life, beauty and color getting ready to bloom …and bring joy to all those seeing it [me included!]

    • Thank you Marina. I do know about moving in the tender plants. I too have had my office looking like I was selling plants. It is sad to loose a plant you had so long. It has happened to me as well. The cold comes so unexpectedly sometimes.

  15. Indie says:

    You have such a beautiful garden! I am enjoying some winter dormancy as well, as it gives me time to plan for next year and do other activities. Gardening season can be such a busy season. As much as I look forward to spring and upcoming blooms, this year I have actually enjoyed a little break. New England winters can definitely drag on, though!

  16. I love looking at the beauty of my winter garden! Time to relax in winter, yes, and time to work on other projects. Spring will be here soon.

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