Just because all your annual and herbaceous flowers are over and now a mass of frosted stems does not mean that there can be nothing to enjoy in the garden. Even without leaves and flowers many shrubs can provide a colorful display through the winter months. Dogwood (cornus alba) has bright red stems throughout the winter. Yellow stems are found on several varieties of willow. Many garden trees exhibit colorful trunks and branches which are only clearly revealed once they have lost their leaves.
With all this talk of bare stems you should remember that there are many shrubs that keep their leaves and do produce flowers during the winter. The Winter Jasmine (jasminum nudiflorum) is a sturdy shrub which will grow almost anywhere whose bright yellow flowers light up any dull winter’s day. Mahonia (M. japonica) is another shrub with yellow flowers which has the added benefit of a fragrant scent. Rose pink blooms are borne from December to February by one of the Viburnums (V. x bodnantense).
Another group that can provide interest in winter are those that have finished flowering but then produce colorful berries. Cotoneaster, Pyracanthus and Skimmia all have bright red berries which make a striking display and also attract wild birds into your garden in their search food.
So far we have been concentrating on shrubs. But what about smaller plants? Does your flowerbed have to remain bare all winter? Not at all, there are plenty of hardy plants that can survive the winter frosts and snow. The Christmas Rose is one of the several varieties of hellebores that flower at this time of year.
1. Cut about half a dozen growing tips from the plant – about 4″ using a sharp knife or secateurs and pop straight into a polythene bag to keep the cutting moist
2. Use either special cuttings compost, or make up a half and half mix of multi-purpose compost and vermiculite or sharp sand
3. You can use small 3″ pots for individual cuttings, or a larger 5″ pot and place up to 5 cuttings around the edge
4. Trim each cutting so that the bottom is just below a leaf joint (node) – make the cut a slanted one if you can
5. Take off all the bottom leaves, leaving just 3-4 at the top, and pinch out the growing tip
6. If you are using hormone rooting powder, dip the bottom end of the cutting in water, then into the powder and shake off any excess
7. Push the cutting into the compost in the pot up to about a third of its length, and water
8. Cover the pot with a clear polythene bag making sure the bag does not press against the leaves, and place on a bright, sunny window ledge or in a greenhouse
9. Check every few days, but they should not need much watering
10. When you see new leaves appearing, you will know that the cutting has rooted – you can then re-pot the new plant into normal potting compost
Different styles of porch swing
Most patio swings have similar seats made of horizontal slats, but what makes the difference is the style of the back. The most traditional is a straight top to bottom back with vertical slats. This style of back offers you a classic look and the most comfort. You can also get backs that are straight at the bottom and then roll backward at the top. Some swing backs also have decorative carvings at the top.
The style you choose is a matter of personal preference. But when you get to the furniture shop, try sitting in the swing that you fancy – something that looks very attractive is not necessarily comfortable or practical.
How much would a good porch swing cost?
You can find quality wood porch swings from 200 to 800 dollars. The cost of your patio swings depends most on the type of wood they are made of. Western Red Cedar is the most beautiful and also most expensive. Cypress, pine and alder swings are a more budget-conscious option, with pine being the least expensive.
The construction of your porch swing also determines its price. Some swings come with a canopy, and these are more expensive. But if you plan to put your swing on a covered veranda, you don’t need a canopy. And of course, additional decorations will always cost you more.
Where to get best deals on porch swings
The first place to look would be your local outdoor furniture stores. You can see what style is most comfortable for you and suitable for your porch. But don’t hurry to purchase your swings in local shops. After you find a general style you like, check online furniture stores and compare prices. There are many sites that sell discounted garden furniture and usually you can get a good deal when you buy your wooden porch swings online.
Assuming that you have neighbours and need or want to demark your boundary, what do you want to look at? Trees? A hedge? A fence? Let’s consider a few alternatives.
- Wire fence – not pretty but you can grow climbing plants up it and bushes in front and eventually, it will become invisible (and so will your neighbours).
- Wood panel fencing – not too bad to look at but you will need to paint or spray on some sort of preservative. Creosote is quite cheap but smells horrible and damages plants (don’t forget there may be some on the other side of the fence). Other preservatives cost a bit more but come in a variety of colours so you can have a light or dark wood or even green or blue if you want. This will need redoing every couple of years depending on weather conditions where you live. If you have concrete posts and the panels need replacing, you can just slide the old ones out and the new ones in. Wooden posts need to be embedded in cement as do concrete ones but wooden ones frequently rot so you will need to replace the post and dig out and replace the cement.
- Wooden rail and overlapping plank fencing – each plank needs to be nailed to the horizontal rails. It looks nice but also needs a protective coating. It can be cheap and easy to repair if only a few planks rot at a time.
- A hedge. No matter what you choose in terms of hedge plants, you will need to clip your hedge at least once a year to keep it tidy. When choosing, you need to decide whether you want evergreen or deciduous, how tall you want it to be, what soil it needs and how quickly you want it to grow. My advice would be to choose something which will grow to the required height and no more and only needs annual pruning. Don’t forget that conifers such as Leylandii grow very quickly and can lose foliage at the bottom if they’re not kept in check. In addition, nothing else will grow below them and they may well end up blocking out both your and your neighbours’ light, particularly if your garden is not large.
Do you want a lawn? Bear in mind that it will need watering in dry spells, feeding about twice a year, mowing at least once a week in the growing season (including tidying up the edges), aerating occasionally, scarifying to remove the dead bits underneath and worse still, kept weed free. On the plus side, mowing etc. can be very therapeutic and satisfying, a well-kept lawn is lovely underfoot and much nicer to look at than concrete. Of course you can always invest in Astroturf for the same effect!
If you ever saw the popular TV series “Ground Force”, you will know that there are endless possibilities for hard landscaping. You can have a paved patio or a wooden deck, raised flower beds of stone or brick, or terraced flower beds and steps if your garden slopes. Ou can have paths of gravel or pebbles or coloured slate or stepping stones. You can have pebbly or gravelled areas with artistic arrangements of plant-filled pots, coloured china balls and any other garden ornament you can think of. How about a deck or other seating area away from the house to catch the last of the evening sun?