Now that we are close to a month into winter, it is time for the gardener in us to slow down, reflect and refresh. It is time to get into all of those garden books you have collected, do some serious reading and also to look at all of the plant nursery catalogues that have come in. You say you don’t have any garden books? May I suggest a trip to one of our local Halifax Library branches and check out some of the books they have on hand.

I bet you are tired of raking leaves, right? Now you can see the trees in the landscape and forest. Without leaves, trees look a whole lot different and show off their structure without all of that greenery hiding everything.

Find a woodland trail, albeit in South Boston along the Tobacco Heritage Trail or at Edmunds Park. Take a walk and enjoy the scenery. Any favorite woodland trail is a totally different experience in the winter. It has been said that a forest shows its winter bones.

Like forests, your winter stricken gardens and landscape provide new views, insights and inspiration ... yes, inspiration for what you want to see in the coming spring.

Part of planning for next year’s garden and landscaping changes might include, besides reading about possibilities, a trip or two to visit some public gardens. Public gardens generally will have many different species and varieties/cultivars of plants that you may want to consider.

One excellent place to visit is the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. What a relief to go into the arboretum located below the Capital, especially after a wintry trek on the mall.

Inside this beautiful building you will find flora and fauna from around the globe as well as from around the country. After you have soaked up the sights, smells and colors in that warm moist air, you may want to check out Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, just west of I-385 off Little River Turnpike, where you will find Virginia Master Gardener volunteers involved in the annual upkeep, and you also may get a tour of these beautiful gardens.

In fact, at many of our gardens throughout Virginia and North Carolina, you are likely to run into Master Gardeners involved in the care and tours.

J. C. Raulston in Raleigh is another highlight stop for any plant enthusiasts. These gardens are close enough that you may be interested in some of the upcoming programs just down the road from us. The new year programs at J. Raulston Arboretum started Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 1 p.m. with the “Plantsmen’s Tour” taking in the Winter Wonders with Director Mark Weathington leading the tour.

The following week on Thursday, Jan. 12, at 7:30 p.m. a lecture was held at the arboretum entitled “Exploring Cuba and South Africa with the J.C. Raulston Arboretum.”

There is generally very informative programming throughout the calendar year at the arboretum. The director is very knowledgeable and someone I’ve worked with before over the years when he was the director of the Norfolk Botanical Gardens prior to going to NCSU. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech, so he probably has a hard time sitting on either side of the stadium at a football game when those two teams play.

If you are really adventurous and want to travel further north, consider visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square Pennsylvania or take the Amtrak trip to New York and take in the New York Botanical Gardens and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

If you are leaning towards a southern excursion, I-85 will take you close to some wonderful choices such as the Atlanta Botanical Gardens or Callaway Gardens west of Atlanta at Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Heading on into Alabama you will find Bellingrath Gardens and Home, located in Theodore, Alabama, which is near Dauphin Island, Alabama. If you are inclined to check out the deep southern gardens of Florida, there is the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden located at Coral Gables, Florida. Also if in the Largo area, consider the Florida Botanical Gardens. There are 13 major botanical gardens in Florida, so let your fingers do a search on the internet, and you will find many places to go (while it is icy/snowy in Virginia).

Just don’t forget to write down those desirable plants that you’ll find along the way. You know…keep focused on the reason for the trip; gardening and landscaping ideas.

After visiting a few of these gardens, or just doing some cruising on the internet, you should have some inspiration for what you might like to incorporate in your garden and landscape as spring gets closer and closer.

Remember, plants awaken our senses in many ways such as through sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. Yes, hearing is affected by the sounds of the pollinators hard at work in the spring. The senses bring fascination, and with that, pleasure.

Fragrance and aromas in the landscape can be a specific pleasure created to make you excited about going out each and every day. In the true traditional southern culture, many of us purposely plant fragrant roses.

There are gardenias that will survive and do well here in Southside Virginia, but not much further north. The fragrances generated by the flowers will have you looking for the pollinators that also love them, honeybees. Oh, for the pleasurable whiff of newly bloomed old-fashion rose, fresh cut grass or a quick afternoon rain shower. The sense of smell will be awoken. Want more of such pleasure? Then do plan and plant aromatic plants in your beds.

Consider cultivating fragrance and aromas as an enhancement to the gardening life and well-being. In the spring, the sense of sight is the most anxious. Imagine that first glimpse of a cheerful daffodil peeking out of winter litter and mulch. Some daffodils are fragrant, so why not plan for early boosts to the senses of sight and smell? Plant a fragrant daffodil in the fall, or even take the risk of planting some on a winter day.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget fragrant hyacinths. Do you appreciate subtle aromas that do not waft but that invite a personal, up-close whiff or brushing against? The choices are many all through the gardening season.

As I said, the resources are many; visiting botanical gardens and arboretums, our local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office, local libraries and from your smartphone or computer.

To cut out some of your searching, I have put together a list of aromatic plants (minus always-fragrant herbs) to consider growing in your garden. This list came from the book, “The Aromatherapy Garden: Growing Fragrant Plants for Happiness and Well-Being” by Kathi Keville.

Balsam fir, clematis, clove pink/dianthus, daphne, flowering tobacco/nicotiana, freesia, gardenia, geranium, heliotrope, hyacinth, iris, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lilac, lily-of-the-valley, Mexican orange flower, mock orange, oriental lily, phlox, poet’s daffodil, primrose, rose, stock, sweet box/sarcococca, sweet flag, sweet pea, sweet pepperbush, tuberose, trumpet flower, viburnum, violet, wallflower, wintersweet and witch hazel.

This list will give you a wide variety of choices in color, height, coverage etc. Not all varieties of a species are fragrant, so you need to check closely on each to make sure that is the variety you want prior to purchasing.

If you see “sweet” or “ordorata/odoratus” in the plant’s botanical name, it should have aroma to it. Some people would add Yarrow to the list as well. Yarrow is one of those plants that the Native American peoples used for medicinal purposes, but the pungent odor isn’t pleasing to some folks who will turn up their nose at having it in the garden/landscape. Yarrow also was used as an insect repellant, but then your spouse might not be too happy if you went “native” and used it around him or her.

When you use these senses in designing and building a landscape pleasing to you, you have awoken more in you.

Many of the above plants will draw beneficial insects, birds, mammals, that will add to your sense of sight, sound and redirect nature’s wonders closer to home — just a new way to look for change in your gardening and landscaping.

Okay, some mammals aren’t welcome, but we can’t control that.

After all of your planning and ordering plants and bulbs, then on those cold damp days of winter when you don’t want to do anything outdoors, you can engage in arts and crafts projects to transform the spoils of gardening into other forms and uses that can continue to fascinate you.

Watch for advertised educational opportunities to make hardscape items for your garden.

Our Halifax County Master Gardeners are always putting on educational programs and do advertise them in our local newspapers. Just watch for these announcements of upcoming programs and call and sign up to attend.

If you have an idea for a program that you would like to see, you can always drop me an email at and share your ideas. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a lot of planning, planting and awakening my senses as well.