When most of us think of beautiful, sustainable landscapes, rarely do we think of winter. However, designing for the winter garden can lead to satisfying and pleasing color and texture all year round. It can even inspire you to get all bundled up and head outdoors for some fresh air when the temperature falls.
Pick the Right Plants
Many plants - if you know what to chose - look very striking in the winter, even after their leaves have dropped to the ground. But how do you select the right plants? Well, first off, before starting any planting plan, head on out to the garden with your camera and a notepad. Find a local arboretum, park, commercial nursery or botanical garden, and check out the sights, colors and textures. What tweaks your senses? What makes you go, ‘oooh’? What trees, bushes and shrubs colors, bark and berries catch your eye? If you’re a smartphone user, check out the LeafSnap app which has a comprehensive listing of thousands of trees, bushes and seedpods.
Secondly, take an inventory of the existing landscape you want to design for. Are there interesting plants that already look great? Are there groupings of shrubs that have an intriguing texture? What are the colors, what are the rhythms, what are the patterns created by what already exists? What types of shadows fall on the ground below throughout the day?Types of Plants in a Winter Garden Design
- Fruit and Seed Plants: These plants have awesome seedpods, colorful fruits and berries, and large quantities of visual interest.
- Stem and Bark Plants: What matters here is texture. Does the peeling bark reveal a beautiful smooth patina underneath? Is the stem of the plant a vibrant red? Are the stems full and interesting?
- Leaf and Flowering Plants: Vibrant blooms shoot out despite the cold, while creating a sense of life and vitality.
As your planning begins, think about stretching out the beauty as long as you can by finding plants that provide visual interest throughout the winter season. That way, plants that bloom earlier at the start of the winter season are followed by those that look great in the heart of winter, which are followed by those that are bud early in the year.
Also, consider planting in large groupings for bigger impact.
Design for HabitatNot only can your landscape be a source of beauty to get you through the long harsh winter, but it can also be a welcome retreat, reprieve and home to many species. When creating your winter garden, consider birds and their reliance on fruits and seeds for survival. Also, consider critters that make your landscape home, or insects that may design to camp out and hibernate all winter long. Anything that holds seeds throughout the winter, will be beneficial to the creatures that call your landscape home. And, while you’re at it, why not add a bird feeder or two? Design a bird friendly landscape.
Evaluate the Overall Landscape Design
Now that your existing landscape is a little more barren and not so full of blooms, it is a great time to evaluate the overall layout and design. How is the current design working or not working? What trees, shrubs or even hardscape (paving, benches, tables, etc) are placed perfectly? What seems to be blocking the flow or not blocking the summer sun? What can be added or subtracted not only from the winter garden, but from the summer landscape as well? You may want to consider hiring a landscape architect.
After careful observation, a bunch of planning and spending some quality time outdoors in the cool, hopefully next winters garden will be even better!