The importance of garden structures in a winter garden cannot be overemphasized. In the dormant season, the lower sun and overcast skies dull the limited colors of the landscape.
Winter also tends to confine people to a view of their landscape from inside their house thus making interesting details of plants often too distant to see. Last but not least small shrubs, ground covers, and even the details of larger plants are often covered from sight by snow
Structures can provide the bones of the garden that stand out during this season. They can also provide color in the winter.
One of the first steps in planing any garden is deciding upon which type of garden structures will be included and where.
Natural Materials for garden structures
In Japanese and other nature-inspired gardens, the preferred building materials for structures are those from nature, such as wood, bamboo, and stones. Wood is often naturally decay resistant such as cedar or cypress. Pressure treated timbers are can be used for structural pieces to maximize the life of the structures.
Bamboo is not used for structural purposes but is instead used as decorative or functional reasons such as the screening portion of a fence. Stones are often either in natural shapes such as granite boulders or cut stones such as bluestone or flagstone.
There are several types of structures that are appropriate for most residential gardens. These include:
Gate – These act either as an entrance to the garden or as an entrance to a different part of the garden.
Arbor – These can serve the same purposes as a gate, but can also support a flowering vine. In Japanese gardens the traditional choice would be wisteria. Certainly you are free to choose whatever plant you would like. Other choices could be a climbing rose, or my favorites Jackmanii clematis and Sweet Autumn clematis.
Bridge – If your garden has an appropriate sized water feature such as a creek or pond or even a dry creek bed, a small bridge can be a wonderful focal point for the garden year around.
Gathering garden structures
Bench – It does not get much simpler than a garden bench. Whether made of metal, a log, cut wood or any combination, every garden needs at least one bench. Not only to sit on but also to look at when the cold winter winds keep us inside.
Gazebo – While the main purpose of a gazebo should be as a gathering place for being out in the garden, don’t overlook their value as a focal point to view from the home during the winter season. Style, size, and scale in relation to the rest of the garden need to be carefully considered for maximum impact.
Even Simple Structures or Color can add a lot
Whether it is a simple structure such as a single bench or something more elaborate such as a bridge over a pond leading to a gazebo, every winter garden needs a man made structure to show the connection between the garden and its occupants.
If you prefer some bolder colors to your structures, see this article on painting garden furniture and structures for some helpful tips.
For a related post, see Adding winter interest to your landscape.
I really like the farm bell with clematis! May I ask you what type of pole did you use to place the bell on top?
If by “rock garden” you mean an alpine garden, my biggest piece of advice is to get the soil mix right for the plants you are planning on including and remember it will settle, possibly alot over the 1st year.
Good luck on your rock garden. If you have any questions please ask and I will do my best to answer them.
Mary Nelson (cousin) says
As I gaze out onto our deserted patio and garden, I am so glad to see the trellis(s), benches, and other structures waiting for Spring. I do put a lot of my ornamental garden stuff away for winter as some of the stuff is fragile especially to the cold. I only hope that we have a normal Spring as last year we were away for the month of March and I missed most of my Spring flowers. I am planning on putting in a rock garden next year – could use some advice???