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By volunteer Stephanie de Moll

Some days are dark and dreary, others are clear and cold.  The trees are bare, and it seems there’s not much to do in the garden.  While dreaming of spring flowers, try to add dashes of color throughout the garden for a delightful winter surprise.

First think about lighting.  Christmas lights don’t have to be just for the holiday.  Wind a few strings around tree limbs for instant pop.  Party lights add a festive touch to a patio area while rope light can brighten walkways and outline flower beds.

For more permanent lighting solutions consider low voltage or solar lighting.  Both are readily available in a wide variety of styles.  Solar lights can be purchased as light strings, in sets, or as individual stakes.  Advanced technology has improved solar lighting, including super-bright LED bulbs and more efficient batteries.  Look for all-year, all-weather lights that will last for years.

Whirligigs and garden flags add whimsy, movement, and splash to the garden.  Most inexpensive garden spinners are made of weather-resistant fabric and require minimal assembly.  They’re vibrant and fun to watch on windy days.  High-end metal spinners may even contain LED lights for evening sparkle.  Flags and spinners are portable and easy to reposition as the season changes.

Wind chimes add another dimension to the garden any time of year.  Chimes can often be found in garden centers, specialty shops, and other retail stores.  They can also be made at home and would be a good rainy-day project for children.  Tie together driftwood and shells, old kitchen utensils, or small tools.  Let children experiment with sounds to discover what they find most pleasing.

Yard art may become less prominent when flowers are blooming and shrubs are lush and full.  Perhaps some great piece of sculpture has been hiding away in a corner of the yard.  Relocating items can bring interest to the winter garden.  A favored statue might become a focal point with a solar spotlight for nighttime allure.  Mirrors reflect light and make small spaces appear larger.  A mirror hanging on a fence will show a piece of art from multiple sides.

Scatter artwork around the garden or set out several small pieces together.  Try mixing items of metal, glass, and other materials.  Choose heavy, inexpensive glass vases in a variety of colors, and if necessary, add sand or rocks for weight to prevent tipping.  Create a unique garden diorama with garden implements and a ceramic birdbath.  Mount some colorful birdhouses on posts of differing heights.  All add color to the winter garden.

A bare yard can also be the perfect backdrop for a great collection.  When empty, a grouping of beautiful glazed pots will stand out against a gray day.  A collection of old plastic pots is quickly transformed with spray paint.  The array of colors and finishes can spiff up the plainest containers.

Seating in the garden is important year round, even in winter.  A bench or an Adirondack chair painted hot pink, sunny yellow, or candy apple red will add instant pizzazz to a garden.  An old patio set can be transformed into a functional bouquet by painting each piece a different color.

For most gardeners winter is a quiet time of year.  Caught between the last harvest and the urgency of new beginnings, the season begs for artistic ingenuity.  Try adding a slice of color.  Establish visual appeal.  Maybe add some form of audible charm.  A little skill and imagination can work wonders for chasing away the winter doldrums.

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