Structure in the Winter

Posted on 13th Jan, 2010

With the country under a blanket of snow any idea of getting out to work in the garden has to be put aside – Gardeners retreat to the potting shed or if they have more sense to a warm fireside to plot and plan for the season ahead.

Meanwhile, us garden designers can be found going back to the drawing board! Literally.

The winter garden provides the best time to make a long hard assessment of the overall structure of the garden, or to use designer speak – the “bones”. All gardens, whatever their size, need good bones, and a garden in winter should have its own character and features which will be enhanced by frost, snow, fog, mist and even rain! The wonderful challenge when working on a new design for a garden or a new planting scheme is to think seasonally – hard landscaping features such as walls, steps, pergolas, obelisks and other structures add to the three dimensional aspect of the garden and provide permanent structure throughout the seasons but have added value when they take on a different look in the soft warm light of autumn to the mist of a cold winter morning. Planting provides valuable bones as well – trees, hedges, shrubs both deciduous and evergreen, grasses and if you don’t cut them down in autumn – last seasons seed heads all contribute in different but equally valuable ways to the winter picture.

The snow provides another winter blessing. With site visits cancelled and outside work on hold – it's a fantastic chance to get out into the landscape and embrace the winterscape. Somehow the snow makes you look at the landscape differently. The silhouette of trees in the winter sun helps to remind me of the importance of encouraging clients to plant trees and to try to include a tree in even the smallest garden for their valuable year round structure. Those of us who get out into the winter landscape probably have a greater appreciation of just how much colour is out there – coloured barks, beech and hornbeam leaves, evergreen trees and shrubs and the first stirrings of the fresh grey/green of snowdrops. It's always heartening that even in the first days of January the daylight already seems longer in the afternoon and that despite the snow, the early bud is forming all around us and spring really is just around the corner!

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