The green rush of summer growth is over, the beauty of autumn has passed. The Wisconsin winter landscape is one of cold and repose, but it doesn't have to be dreary. Just a few simple things can put a lot of life into your snowy garden.
Use evergreen trees and shrubs in your plantings. They are the only plants that won't be bare sticks come December. Few sights are prettier than a Colorado blue spruce in a jacket of fresh snow. Choose low shrubs such as junipers for bordering paths, medium-sized arborvitae to accent buildings, and tall pines for windbreaks or specimen plantings. An added benefit to evergreens is that they provide fresh cuttings for decoration at no charge (think of those pricey Christmas wreaths.) One note of caution: don't over-do it. Evergreen-only landscapes are downright dull.
Try to include some unique deciduous plants, too. Corkscrew willow is funky and beautiful, with curly stems that look terrific even when naked. The bark of white birch and river birch looks great any time of year. Red twig dogwood gives a welcome splash of color (and it's a native.)
The garden is not just about plants. Many species of birds stay in Wisconsin through winter, including chickadees, nutchatches, cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers. Obviously, keep feeders well-stocked, and be a source for thawed water with a heated birdbath. If you don't mind them, rabbits and squirrels will gladly accept edible goodies, such as the long-lived holiday fruitcake.
Instead of packing everything away indoors, leave out a few old clay pots, tools, or buckets. Fill them with pinecones, evergreen cuttings, even Christmas ornaments and strings of lights. And tempting as it is, resist cutting down all the dead seedheads of annuals and perennials until spring. Leave some up for a little winter sculpture.
A few local sources for plants and bird supplies:
Wolfrath's Nursery, Hortonville
Greenleaf Landscaping and Gardens, Greenleaf
Fleet Farm, Green Bay and Appleton