An attractive yard begins long before green creeps into the grass or plants sprout foliage and blooms. This year’s warm winter has given lawn-keepers many days to comfortably work in their yards in order to have a beautiful spring.

Dan Spaulding, curator at the Anniston Museum of Natural History, assists with keeping the grounds there and at the Berman Museum. He said this winter is a good time to plant new trees and shrubs.

"Trees and shrubs planted in the winter months have an opportunity to establish roots before summer droughts threaten them," he said.

Spaulding advises gardeners to study the best types of plants for the particular space available in the yard. For those who want a fragrant plant, he often recommends the tea olive shrub. Its tiny blossoms are nothing much to look at, but they emit a strong jasmine fragrance a couple of times each year. He also recommends rhododendrons, camellias, golden spindles and leather-leaf grape holly.

Planting trees and shrubs during the winter requires gardeners to dig a hole larger than the root ball, add in a layer of peat moss mixed with soil, then cover the base of the new plant with a protective layer of straw or mulch after it has been placed inside the hole.

Hayes Jackson, an agent with the Calhoun County Extension Office and the collaborative director at Longleaf Botanical Gardens, recommends choosing native plants for better drought-resistance, including yaupon holly, wax myrtle and beautyberry. Some drought-resistant herbs can weather the winter months and make an attractive addition to a yard. Non-native, drought-resistance plants include the eucalyptus tree, pomegranate and rosemary.

Tony Diaz, owner of U.S. Lawns based in Jacksonville, advises gardeners to make their lawn more attractive by removing not only leaves but also dead limbs. This year in particular, it might be necessary to remove dead shrubs, due to last year’s drought.

Another tip Diaz offered is to restore the edges of flower and shrub beds. "Redefine edges with equipment, such as a shovel and a re-edger," he said.

He also recommends using a yard fork to aerate the ground beneath shrubbery. Once the soil is loosened, it will accept fertilizer and ensure healthier shrubs.

"Plants that do not require much maintenance are Eastern redbuds and dogwoods," Diaz added.

Sherry Kughn is a freelance writer for The Star. Contact her at skughn@hotmail.com.