Whenever I’m designing a garden, I think about the garden layout or style as though it was a black and white photograph – will the space have enough areas of light and shade? Is there enough contrast? Is there form and structure to the beds? Is there a framework for the garden that will allow the plants to be the feature? Is it three dimensional – meaning, does it have a backdrop, a foreground and a middle area?
This will really show you if your garden relys on flowers for its interest or if it has good bones that will hold up in every season. The flowers are then just the decorations or the icing on the cake when they are in season. The structure of the garden might be formed by rows of the one plant or a line of trees or shrubs or it might be a deciduous feature tree or repeat plantings of the one species scattered throughout the bed or planted out on mass.
The structure doesn’t have to be formed just by a formal looking square cut hedge of one species or layered hedges of a few species at different heights. Even the most cottage style mixed planting garden can have some structure or framework visible in the middle of winter.
When designing your layout for a garden bed, this structure can be formed by layering of planting at different heights. This does not need to be with just one or two plant species, you can do layering with a variety of plant species, all with different forms.
If you tend to use only one or two species within a bed, you will most likely end up with a more formal garden, whilst having some diversity of species will possibly allow you to have a more informal style of garden.
When designing a cottage style garden, I always introduce some evergreen shrubs that can be loosely pruned to a mound like form or a hard prune to a definite ball form. For example, using groups of pruned Buxus in between the cottage style perennials works well to give the garden some more contrasting shapes and leaf forms. Also, using some plants that will have form and flowers through winter is helpful to give the garden interest through the cooler months when the majority of plants are dying back or have been cut back. This can be achieved by planting evergreen flowering shrubs such as Daphne or Camellias.
Using deciduous trees is another interesting way of adding seasonality to the garden and their bare limbs through winter can be used as a feature on their own. Thinking about seasonal planting is a good way to have a blend of plants that will have flowering at different times of year. At this time of year, winter, there are many winter flowering plants that will give you colour and interest. It may not just be flowers, it could be foliage or fruit as well.
Winter flowering plants can be planted in a variety of locations. They might be under deciduous trees where they will enjoy the winter sun once the trees have dropped their leaves or they may be located behind a deciduous shrub or tree as you will be able to see them once the deciduous plants drop their foliage. There are also many winter flowering plants that are fragrant.
Deciduous trees and shrubs
Japanese Flowering Quince
Evergreen trees and shrubs
I always think about the use of garden lighting within a garden. During the winter months, you may not be actually out in the garden as much for entertaining, especially less likely at night, however think about what plants you see from inside the house – where the windows look out to from your main living area or kitchen or which plants do you pass by regularly. For example, the ones that are close to the front door when you arrive home.
These are the plants you should consider up lighting. The location of up lights may also be determined by the type of plants, for example, you don’t want to up light plants that don’t look good throughout the entire year. Having some flexibility in the lighting can also be good so that you can move the fittings around to shine on certain plants at different times of year. This is not always possible, so try to use the lighting on plants or trees that are what I call the “backbone” of the garden. They are the plants that give form and structure to the space, have seasonal interest and just look good always.
If you have any areas of gardening you would like me to focus on in upcoming articles, please let me know. If you would like to receive my free Garden Greeting newsletter, you can subscribe here - www.tinyletter.com/glenicebuckdesigns or email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone or text me on 0417 077 386.
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