Yard covered in snow

Chase away cold weather blues with winter landscaping.

Outside your window, the snow lies soft on pine boughs, and frost clings to branches. The sky is blue, and the sun, when it’s out, brightly reflects light off the snow, leaving you a precious moment of relaxation to sip coffee and prepare for your day.

This moment can be one you enjoy when you showcase your home’s landscaped exterior for winter. With a few simple landscaping design features, your yard becomes a winter wonderland destination without even jumping into your car!

So what features do you look for to transform your yard for the winter months?

The elements you include in your landscape design for summer months will provide the structure and interest in the winter. Take a moment to consider your property.

If you find any of the following winter elements or ideas missing, work with a landscape designer to pinpoint structure and vegetation suggestions that will bring enjoyment all year long.

Trees, Bushes & Plants

With a hot beverage in hand, call up the internet. Swipe through some of the garden design pictures or online nursery catalogues. It will give you an idea of the many plants that can be used to add interest to your winter landscaping. Some plant nurseries will even mail out paper copies that you can make notes on and mull over. 

While you consider the various offerings, also look for interesting bark colours and texture, branch or stem forms, berry production, and seed pod formation.

Look For Interesting Features

Trees like paper birch, maple, column aspen, mountain ash, and weeping birch have unique bark and branches. Several shrubs also provide interest when they shed their leaves in fall.

Here are some examples: burning bushspirea, lilac, rosebushes, and dogwood. Even spent plant stalks can be interesting in the garden, so don’t clean all those dead stalks away. 

Some examples are alum, Japanese lanterns, dianthus, and sunflower plants. Pampas grass groupings have become popular, and its showy stalk heads collect frost attractively in winter. 

Many trees, bushes, and plants produce blue, white, red, and green berries. These can provide pops of colour over your yard. 

Don’t forget evergreen plants, which are a breath of life during long winter months. They also come in a variation of blue, yellow, and green tones. The use of evergreen trees, bushes, and creeping varieties will draw the eye to all levels of the yard.

Feed The Birds

Leaving berries on bushes and wise use of bird feeders can make a garden landscape come alive in winter. Set up bird feeders on trees and watch their antics your windows. It gives you a glimpse into bird behaviours. Some can be quite comical. 

Because heavy snowfalls make food harder to find, feeders are great for birds that do not fly south in winter. The birds also appreciate watering places that are not frozen, as liquid water can be hard to find in below-freezing temperatures. De-icing equipment placed on or in the bowl will keep ice from forming. A small aquarium pump will also keep the water moving.

Birds add to winter landscaping
One element to add to your winter landscaping is a bird feeder. Visiting birds will provide a pop of colour to your yard.

In Calgary, we often get visits from cedar waxwings migrations. They raid neighbourhood trees for any leftover berries and can be awesome to watch as flocks descend on your trees.

There are some drawbacks to bird feeders. Birds can be messy, and seeds sometimes are spread around. Placing a tarp under trees will make for easy clean up in spring. Bird feeders can also attract other wildlife to your yard, so consult wildlife experts in your area about animals drawn to feeders in your area. 

Landscape Lighting

We all appreciate the cheer that exterior house lights bring to festive events. But aside from lighting your home for Diwali, Christmas, or Hanukah, light your yard all winter to brighten it up at night. 

Trees can be wrapped with lights to create fairy-like forests. It is something done frequently to yards in warmer climates. Exterior lighting like spotlights, coloured spotlights, solar lights, deck lighting, candles in safe holders, and fire pits can also add cheer to a backyard. Check here for examples of landscape lighting to consider.  

Fire Pits & Winter Sunrooms

When Chinook winds whip through the Calgary area, it can open up the opportunity to do some outdoor winter entertaining. Canadians are hardy and will brave the deck for a winter BBQ or snow party. Those patio areas close to the barbeque and fire pit can be ideal for this purpose.

Covered decking or winter sunrooms paired with a fire feature can allow guests from indoor celebrations a quiet cool area for conversation away from the rush of party exuberance.

Snowman as part of winter landscaping

Snow Features

Snow has its downside, but using it for winter yard improvement can be fun. Creating snow sculptures could be a family project and bring out a creative genius you never knew you had. Many winter festivals showcase ice sculptures

Even simple snowmen can be paired with lighting to add a dramatic effect to the yard. Make sure your sculpture has a firm foundation and use water in a spray bottle to increase stickiness so that snow can be worked with easier. An ice block with food colouring and lighting is also an inexpensive idea to bring extra colour in the yard.

Water Features

Smaller summer fountains should have their pumps removed and brought indoors before the freeze hits, but larger ponds and fountains can be a fantastic feature for winter landscaping.

Larger water features can stay unfrozen by running pumps continuously. De-icing and pond heaters will help reduce ice formation. If a pond is deeper than 36 inches deep, fish can stay alive in below zero temperatures with careful preparation. Talking with a landscape professional will help you determine what you’ll need to run the feature throughout the winter.

Consider adding skating areas if you have enough backyard or acreage space. Backyard rinks are excellent for occasional shinny games or teaching skating to little ones.

A landscape contractor can provide equipment to make a good foundation for the rink. They will advise you on foundation basics and instructions needed to build a good skating surface. Some companies even offer snow removal on larger rinks.

Some communities have come together to adopt a rink. However, get permission from the municipal authority before building and using water.

If you would like to consult a professional landscape designer on any of your winter landscaping questions, Curb Design Inc. would love to hear from you. We can work through all your winter design ideas and advise you on cost, timelines, and more. Reach out today for more information.