By Dana DiSante
The days are getting shorter, and the weather is getting colder. As fall foliage begins to disappear, gardeners tend to look forward to spring flowers and the return of greenery. Winter can feel like a barren expanse between the two seasons, but fortunately, gardeners don’t have to give up their favorite hobby during the frigid months.
At Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, visitors can find winter highlight plants, which are unique to the region and offer a variety of vibrant colors during gray winters. We spoke to Susan Eggerton, the park’s program coordinator for education and a valuable resource to anyone with a green thumb whose dreading the upcoming winter season.
How do winter gardens differ from other seasons?
Since only some species thrive in the winter, maintaining a garden during the colder seasons [requires] using cuttings of plants to clone in a greenhouse and relocating plants, if possible, indoors. The majority of garden plants will not be happy with the dry air during wintertime, so it is a time to look to the future for the next growing season.
What are winter highlight plants, and where can they be found in Northern Virginia?
In the winter, plants are pretty showy. There are species that show up beautifully in the wintertime, so for winter interest, gardeners are looking for plants with some sort of feature that stands out: interesting bark or structure, berries or even sometimes flowers.
In Northern Virginia, one of these plants includes a deciduous holly that has beautiful berries in the wintertime. It is native to the region, but Green Spring Gardens hosts a cultivated native of the deciduous holly. Another plant is a yellow twig dogwood, which turns a bright color in the sun. There’s also a red twig dogwood.
What can gardeners do in winter to prepare for the growing season?
Once the winter months come, it is the time for gardeners to plan and look ahead to what they are going to do the next year. You’re not digging in because the ground is frozen, but you can prepare a seed catalog, rework the garden design and review photos of the garden throughout the year.
How does Green Spring Gardens assist gardeners during the wintertime?
The winter lecture series is an opportunity for garden lecturers from around the country to come and share their knowledge. Additionally, there is a seed exchange where people bring seeds to swap and share, which helps when starting to propagate plants for the spring.
Green Spring’s winter lecture series is every Sunday in January, February and March at 1:30 p.m. The seed exchange will take place Feb. 4.