Winter structure
12
Oct

Winter structure

Winter is the perfect time to assess the backbone of your garden. How appealing is it once the blowsy firework display of summer has simmered down and autumn’s golden wrap has begun to fade? Are you left with a blobby mess or does some structure and interest remain?
There are often cracking winter days with deep blue skies and sharp, warm shadows when outdoor exploration beckons. To make this a valuable experience my advice is twofold; keep it simple and think outside the box. 
Keeping it simple can be harder than it first seems. Given a blank canvas some will seek to cram in every conceivable garden design device, from cloud-pruned trees to water features and patterned screens, which can then create a really busy, incoherent space. Whilst there can and should be interesting and intriguing detail to the hard landscaping, the overall structure of the garden should offer a simple platform upon which plants can shine. For example, I would generally limit the use of curving borders or paths to larger open spaces, or to areas some distance from buildings where there are fewer straight-line visual references such as boundary or house walls, fences etc.  Where you have a suburban or enclosed garden any attempt to create a ‘natural’ looking border with a curved edge can look contrived. 
Contrary to popular belief straight lines in an enclosed garden setting will look less obvious, particularly with the with the right planting to soften edges and enough vertical interest to detract the eye from ground-level patterns. Keeping it simple also means being restrained when it comes to the mix of materials used for surfaces and retaining walls – I find using different sizes and finishes of the same material most effective. Or at most limit the mix of materials to say three at most. And finally make sure your garden isn’t too crowded – achieving the right mix of open space and enclosure creates a balanced garden.
Thinking outside the box is about applying creative solutions to common garden problems. Privacy is often one of the top issues a client will refer to in their brief. But the solution needn’t be taller planting around the boundary – this may just enhance the sense of being stuck inside a box with tall sides. With a bit of clever design, staggered screening can be achieved by planting some height within the garden – after all, when you think of sight lines an 8-foot plant or structure close to a seating area provides much greater screening than at the boundary. 
Further thinking outside the box might mean utilising plants in an unusual way. For example, how about some hedges within the garden rather than just at the boundary; why not create hedges out of roses, or evergreen shrubs or ornamental grasses. Rather than get all destructive why not try lifting the crown of that boring shrub to expose its twisted branches and to provide light beneath for other plants. 
Making your garden a delight in the winter needn’t involve designer budgets – it’s just about achieving the right balance between restraint and the application of creative solutions. 
 

garden design winter structure
garden design winter structure