Winter for many gardeners is a wait and see time. We eagerly anticipate spring, yearning to see the pretty green leaves and perennials popping up everywhere. And hoping that everything comes back from the hard freezes (My fingers are crossed)!
Right now, though, most landscapes may seem unspectacular. Very little blooms in the winter. What remains from the growing season are evergreen trees, shrubs, and sticks (from deciduous woody plants or perennials) with a very limited color palate. This is where landscape design comes into play. The texture, color and form of shrubs, perennials and trees can help create interest.
Color, as I have often said, does not only come from blooming flowers. It appears in tree bark, leaves, and berries. It plays an important role in the winter landscape.
Yellow Junipers and other conifers also brighten up a yard and create visual interest and texture.
Texture in a plant is visual as well as tactile. It comes from the structure of the plant including its leaves. Bold, coarse texture can be found year-round from many shrubs, trees and perennials such as Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantine).
Finely textured plants such as grasses are interesting in the winter, especially on windy days. They are some of my favorites for winter interest.
Other grasses that remain attractive all winter are Acorus gramineus (Image 5) and Carex morrowii (Image 6).
Form and pulling it all together
Form is the shape of the plant – round, oval, weeping, conical. In Image 7, most of the plants are rounded, but the designer created some interest with the height of the plants. Including the tree and the river rock ground cover, there are five different heights in this grouping.
On a drive back from visiting my Dad in Virginia, Jason and I stopped at a shopping center. I am always on the lookout for interesting designs or plants and was excited to see the grouping in Image 7. How unusual to see a planting that looks well thought-out in a shopping center! It is something that will look good throughout all the seasons. The designers (and I am sure a designer had a part in this) used a combination of form, texture, and color to create this grouping.
As you look forward into the new year, remember to also look towards next winter and consider how form, texture, and color can be cultivated in your landscape. Art of Stone Gardening is available to answer questions or work with you to envision and bring that winter landscape to fruition.
Don’t forget to leave seed heads both for the birds and for the plant composition.