7 Ways to Boost Wellbeing in Your Winter Garden

You can’t help it. You’re gloomy. The nights have draw in. The days are colder, the trees are bare, the ground is sodden. All that glorious greenery that sustained you in the other seasons has now gone.

But can you still extract some wellbeing out of your winter garden?

Can you get a bit of light out of the darker days? Sure you can. With a bit of clever planting and some help from your wildlife friends, you’ll be walking out in your winter garden just like this…

1. Light up your garden with white plants

Along with some solar lights, I like to plant little white lanterns across the garden.

Helleborus niger, also known as Christmas Rose is my star flower for my winter garden. It is a beautiful cheery white star in the gloom of January.

Helleborus niger

I’m also a sucker for Narcisuss thalia – these are bright white and very elegant daffodils.

I remember visiting Vita Sackville-West’s garden in Sissinghurst when I was a teenager, and the one plant that completely transfixed me was a trained Chaenomeles. Also known as a japanese quince, it produces tiny cup like flowers on spiny branches, but it is a lovely sparkle in spring. ‘Jet Trail’ or ‘Nivalis’ are white varieties. Nivalis will flower the earliest (February) and is loved by bees and butterflies.

You could also go for white crocus or of course snowdrops which look great poking their little heads up under the leaves.

2. Add plants with scent

Scent is a powerful mood enhancer, and there’s no reason you can’t get some lovely smells in the depths of winter. Here’s a small selection of shrubs that should give you a floral hit.

Scented winter flowers and shrubs
  • Crocus sieberi ‘Bowles White’ – a bright crocus with yellow stamen
  • Chimonanthus praecox  – wintersweet – with its little yellow flowers that are oh so delicately scented.
  • Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’ has tiny white bells all through winter. I have two which have never flowered but I’m hoping that this year they will.
  • Daphne bholua – a lovely little pink shrub with plenty of scent. I have a white ‘Eternal Fragrance’ but its still very tiny and only the birds and fairies are enjoying the smell of this one
  • Erica x veitchii ‘Exeter’Erica x veitchii ‘Exeter’- For many years mine did absolutely nothing, then one year – BOOM! Masses of flowers. It looked like Elsa had had a breakdown (Frozen reference). Totally beautiful. Likes ericaceous acid soil though
  • Lonicera × purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ – a honeysuckle that flowers in December
  • Sarcococca confusa ‘Christmas Box’ – this one smells like honey
  • Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ – witch hazel the one that you smear on cuts and your face., actually has lovely smelling flowers. They may look like spiders, but don’t let that put you off

3. Add water

Water has always been a source of calm, relaxation. Watching water is also deeply meditative.

This deep biological connection has been shown to trigger an immediate response in our brains when we’re near water. In fact, the mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation.

Wallace Nichols, author of Blue Mind, quoted in Quartz

Adding water to your garden could be as simple as putting in a small fountain or an elaborate water feature. But you could also consider a wildlife pond or just a bird bath. Try the these 10 Ways to Add Water to Your Garden that Wildlife will love.

My favourite gardens have included lots and lots of water. I love the water gardens near Sarlat la Caneda in the Dordogne in south-west France. Les Jardins d’Eau de Carsac-Aillac is full of fish ponds, exotic water lillies, and a giant pond criss-crossed with wooden platforms. We spent an entire day there, and the rest of the year talking about it.

(c) Julietta Watson
This is one of our favourite photos….we name it “Zoink”. Don’t worry we stopped her before she committed water lily-crime. (c) Julietta Watson

4. Add food & shelter for animals

I love watching the birds eat and drink out the window while I do the washing up. It’s like a birdy soap opera.

If you don’t have a squirrel problem, then a bird feeder can be super simple to make. Just nuts, oats and fat squshed inside an apple or coconut husk strung up will do the trick.

My preference is to plant food for birds rather than buy imported seed and peanuts. It’s not to late to pick up and plant a pyracantha, cotoneaster, mahonia, or what about a bare root crab apple for late autumn planting. All these will provide food for your birds. Or leave seed heads for birds to pick over.

If you want more ideas, check out this post “Stop Buying Bird Food! Attract Insects and Grow Your Own Seeds & Fruits Instead” here.

5. Plant bulbs

Planting out bulbs is definitely believing in a tomorrow. I am always surprised that in the depths of winter these little bubs still have the energy to pop up through the frozen ground.

If you want some really early flowering bubls to add a sparkle, go for snowdrops and scillas.

Better yet, create a lasagne bulb container for your patio or balcony so you have some flowers to look at from your window all through spring. The idea of a lasagne container is that you layer up different bulbs that plant at different times. You put the biggest and last to flower at the bottom, and smallest and earliest to flower at the top.

6. Plant for structure and form

Adding some architectural features in the form of plants can give good structure and interest once all the leaves have fallen and the flowers have died.

Adding some evergreen shrubs can really help boost your mood. I love a few azaleas planted here and there, and some conifers, ferns, bamboos and a fatsia japonica in containerpots. Every window and path has some evergreen to keep me grounded and have some interest that’s not just bare twigs.

7. Bring the outdoors in

Why not bring in some branches, or seed pods inside to make an interesting display.

I’ve saved some honesty seedpods, for my vases and I love how they look against the beige wall.

Every Christmas, my mum would go on about adding a ‘Christmas’ twig, that we could cover with fairy lights. It never looked as good as the pictures we saw in the magazine, and it would look a bit messy. But I think the key is to go LARGE. Go for an oversized glass vase and an architectural branch and keep it minimal.

I really like the #branchdecor styling of Athena Calderone. I had better not show my mum her feed – she’ll have the house turned into a wood!

Athena’s top tip for preserving branches inside is to trim them, and then bash the cut edges with a hammer. This will help it take up more water and last longer inside.

Have you got any autumn/winter gardening wellbeing tips? I’d love to hear them.

So go on and LET IT SNOW – Your garden is gonna look fabulous.

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