When days are dark and gloomy, an infusion of color and creativity brightens the spirit. Winter provides the perfect time to gather inspiration and information for the next gardening season.

As I begin spring planning, projects I couldn’t finalize, areas wanting for the “vision thing” and beds in need of updating fill my to-do list. Curled up by the fire with hot tea, I’m eager to delve into the garden books and seed catalogs piled high on my coffee table.

My collection of garden books, magazines and catalogs is almost embarrassing. But each has something to offer.

Some of my favorites include:

"Hellstrip Gardening: Create a Paradise Between the Sidewalk and the Curb" by Evelyn Hadden

Don’t let the title fool you. This book is about much more than your difficult strip. Filled with inspirational photos, it begins with an entire chapter of garden inspiration. Topics rarely addressed in garden books include living with vehicles, partnering with nature and determining your garden style. The plant description section provides excellent choices for Central Texas gardens and labels all plant selection zones.

"Garden Up: Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces" by Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet

The focus of this book is how to take your landscape to the next level by maximizing vertical spaces. If this makes you think, “Oh, it’s a book about trellises and roses," not so. Chock-full of creativity and DIY project information, it also includes a chapter about planting to cover eyesores like utility boxes as well as small-scale design ideas.

"The Nonstop Color Garden: Design Flowering Landscapes and Gardens for Year-Round Enjoyment" by Nellie Neal

What every gardener wants, right? Nonstop color. The featured gardens, color theory tips and illustrations make it easy to visualize changing plants and elements throughout the year. Not limited to blooming plants, this book also addresses how you can incorporate color in the form of berries, bark and color-changing foliage.

"Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought-Tolerant Choices for All Climates" by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden

This is my go-to plant book. Beautiful photography draws you in, and each plant page includes mature height and width, zone information, the plant’s special attributes, design ideas and other related plant options.

"The Beautiful Edible Garden: Design a Stylish Outdoor Space Using Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs" by Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner

This book marries the basics of vegetable gardening with a designer’s eye. It includes information about hardscape options and how to plan for and succeed at succession gardening. Each chapter starts with DIY floral-oriented project like creating a persimmon wreath or making a mushroom centerpiece.

Like real estate, the most important consideration as you peruse books, magazines or seed catalogs is finding the right plants for our area. Austin sits in Zone 8. Some design books and resources might include plants for a variety of hardiness zones. Before you begin turning your inspiration into an action plan, make certain the plants you love in the pretty pictures grow in our climate.