Let’s face it, gardens don’t always look their best in mid-winter. Yet, looking out at my back garden this morning, I still feel uplifted. Admittedly, the sky is clear deep blue and the sun is shining, making the frosty scene very beautiful. But the deciduous plants are still just bare, and my poor lawn is looking very sad because I break all the rules and walk all over it when I shouldn’t in order to feed the local (and not so local) bird population.
So, what is it that can still make gardens special, even at the bleakest time of year? Well, to my mind, it’s just the simple things that garden designers like me continually prattle on about, and which have been covered in previous blogs – but are worth highlighting again here:
- Simple structure. Maybe even a hint of formality. I have a low Box hedge around a small simple rectangle of lawn, which looks stunning, especially with a bit of frost outlining the edges of the Box leaves. Simplicity itself, but lovely.
- Use of evergreen plants. But en masse these can be rather stodgy, so you also need:
- Plenty of variation – in leaf colour and form, and texture – for example an evergreen lacy fern planted next to a variegated Holly. Or maybe the tassles of a Garrya against its own leathery leaves.
- Then you need an injection of colour – this could be from the berries of Holly, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha etc, or even from flowers such as Iris unguicularis, Daphne etc. See our earlier blog post on Lifting the Gloom.
- Even the bare stems and outline of deciduous plants can provide an architectural highlight e.g. Cornus controversa, Japanese Acers, Viburnum plicatum, Euonymus alatus.
- Features and structures also come into their own at this time of year. An archway, a simple statue, a bird bath, or maybe even just a collection of pots forming their own attractive mini scene.
- And last, but – for me – by no means least, this is the time of year when birds flock to gardens for food and water. And having designed a garden to encourage these creatures, seeing them at my feeders and stripping the berries on my plants, is always very special. If you’d like to find out more, read our post on attracting birds to your garden.
Photo credit: Herry Lawford, Flickr