In a past post I talked about how to add interest to your winter landscape, such as adding trees with interesting bark. Now I want to talk about principles for enhancing your winter garden design.
Winter garden design principle – Pick the best spots for emphasis
Since plants that look best in the winter don’t always standout the rest of the year. You want to pick where you want to emphasize winter interest in your yard. That way you can still have plants in other areas that standout in other seasons. So how do you do this?
TIP #1 – Make your winter garden visible from inside your house. Do you have a large window next to your living room? Do you have a glass patio door you are staring out when you are eating dinner? Is there a window out your office? Put your winter garden there!
Tip #2 – Put your winter garden close enough to your house to see the details of it from inside. A witch hazel’s bright yellow flowers will brighten your January more if it is ten rather than fifty feet away.
Tip #3 – Emphasize the areas that you walk through in the winter. Where do you go in your yard in the winter? Are you walking to your mailbox or to your car in the driveway? If you walk this path every day, it is a great opportunity to brighten your day and maybe improve your mood when you are coming home from work.
Winter garden design principle – See the light or lack of
Now that you figured out where to put winter interest, Consider the amount of light that’s present when you will be looking at the area. If you get home from work at 5:30, the area you are looking at may be dark. If this is the case, you won’t be able to see color differences and everything will be shades of grey.
Tip #4 – In low light scenes, emphasis the form of plants and objects. To consider form, think of the outline of the plant or object. Do the outlines standout or is it a muddled mess?
Tip #5 – In low light areas, select some light colored plants to stand out against darker colored ones. The best color to see in low light is white. White colored plants can really POP in the early evening. I would include some in every winter garden design. White plants that are vertical (such as tree trunks) and not buried under snow, are usually the best. An example is the white barked birch, Whitespire Birch (Betula populifolia ‘Whitespire‘).
Light tan is another good color for standing out in dark landscapes. Most all ornamental grasses turn varying shades of tan in the winter. They can be terrific winter garden design plants.
Winter garden design principle – Tie those areas into the rest of the landscape
You don’t want to neglect adding some winter interest elements to the rest of your landscape. Repetition is one of the keys to good winter garden design (actually all garden design).
Tip #6 – Repeat some of the plants from your winter interest areas in other parts of your yard.
For example, say you plant a dwarf River Birch (Betula nigra ‘Little King’) along with a grouping of evergreen shrubs, groundcover of Vinca minor, and a dwarf Red Twig Dogwood. You would want to include some of those plants in other parts of your garden. It would be better to repeat the entire group in other parts of your landscape. This helps to really tie the yard together as well as provide winter interest throughout it.
Next post, I will give you a winter garden design for a front walk that uses these principles.
FYI: I have just started a Facebook page that will have links to my posts, if you like this post or other ones I’ve been doing, I’d appreciate it if you go and LIKE IT.
By Jim Anderson
I really have enjoyed your comments on winter gardening interest. I think our Master Gardener Association would enjoy this presentation. Do you present this topic for groups? Please contact me via this email, I am part of the Program Committee for the Racine-Kenosha Master Gardener Association in Wisconsin.