While most homeowners think of a pergola as a place to grow vines or provide a little summer shade, Mr. Rill said a pergola can help give a sense of space and scale to a yard in winter.
“You can add color to the landscape with stained or painted wood posts, or add lots of ornamentation with brackets and a trellis,” he said. “In one yard we recently put in a Japanese-style pergola around a hot tub with horizontal one-by-fours with five-inch spaces in between instead of diagonal latticework. You get a sense of spatial enclosure and privacy even with the spaces.”
Mr. Rill said outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are becoming very popular with homeowners, particularly if they have a big hearth to sit on in the winter.
“The idea is to be outside a little bit so you can see the sky and the stars, even in winter,” he said. “We like to add a gas starter for the fire pit to make it easier to catch the wood and warm up fast.”
Stone walls, stone and brick terraces and even wood decks can define a yard and make it more interesting in the winter.
“The idea is to create nooks and romantic spaces within your yard,” Mr. Rill said.
Ms. Benincasa said an outdoor kitchen and an outdoor spa can keep your garden functional in winter and more attractive, especially if you carefully choose the materials for their exterior, such as brick and stone.
“You can also do a lot with lighting to illuminate key features of your yard or just to brighten dark corners,” she said. “You can create interesting shadows with the branches of trees that make your yard look more interesting.”
Mr. Rill said some homeowners also add color with outdoor furniture, as some cushions are made to stay outside all year.
While not as much fun as building an outdoor fireplace or playing with lighting, an important step to making your garden look its best in winter is your fall maintenance project.
“You need to clean up your garden and trim your plants to get them ready for winter,” Ms. Benincasa said. “Add a fresh layer of mulch, too, which makes your whole yard look better the way a fresh coat of paint spruces up a room.”
Above all, be sure you’re prepared to move out of winter and into spring as quickly as possible.
“Try to plant some early-blooming bulbs or find a protected area to plant camellias or witch hazel that begin to grow early,” Mr. Brinitzer said. “Anything that shows the regeneration process is under way can lift your spirits at the end of winter.”