So you’re preparing for winter: cutting back dead growth, raking up fallen leaves, cleaning garden tools. While these are valuable tasks for gardeners as daylight dwindles and crisper temperatures prevail, you don’t have to settle for practical garden maintenance. Create a “pocket garden” for color, texture, and satisfaction through the cold weather.
A “pocket garden” uses small-scale planting in a tucked away space. Think of classic 18th and 19th century dooryard gardens. These planting areas near a home’s entry typically faced south and benefited from the protection of brick walls and outbuildings. They focused on utilitarian plants: herbs for cooking and home remedies, flowers for dying or soap making. But dooryard gardens also dressed up an entrance with visual delights on cold windy days.
Your pocket garden might be in a container or one or two square feet of open ground. Pick a spot that gets a good dose of midday sun in winter. Near a building wall is best. Make it somewhere you pass frequently, or a spot right outside a much-used window. (What’s the point of an attractive pocket garden in a rarely seen corner?)
Then decide on a container or plant directly in the ground. Pitt County Master Gardener Volunteer Teresa Surratt recently prepared several large containers at the County Arboretum for winter. Here are a few of her plant suggestions.
Traditional pansies and violas are dependable winter bloomers. But you can try snapdragons, which are winter hardy in our zone if planted in a sunny protected area. For upright interest, you can rely on euphorbia martinii. Its dense clusters of chartreuse flowers with dark centers emerge in late winter or early spring. Dusty miller can provide beautiful gray-silver foliage through the winter. And Heuchera, with its deep red or lime green leaves, is another choice for center interest. For a trailing ground cover, two good choices are sedum (such as golden creeping stonecrop) or creeping jenny. Both maintain vibrant color through the cold season.
Teresa and her Master Gardener team also have two new winter container plants: wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) has small glossy dark green leaves and bright crimson berries, while wire plant (Muhlenbeckia complexa) has a dense network of small dark green leaves that make a pillowy effect.
Plan now to make a “pocket” of winter interest you’ll enjoy for many months.
Written by: Vicki Kennedy, Extension Master Gardener volunteer