It is during winter that we see the bare bones of the garden, and appreciate fully the structural planting, not just of evergreens, but also of deciduous trees. There are a few winter flowering plants, such as Viburnum bodnantense, the winter flowering jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), mahonias, hellebores, snowdrops and heathers, but it is really the garden structure which helps the garden to retain its interest at this time of year, and it is important to get this right.
Robin Williams, in his book The Garden Planner, says “The structure can, if desired, be obvious; for example, a formal layout could be complex and intended to be appreciated as a pattern in itself. For an informal garden, the underlying framework may be almost entirely disguised by planting so that the garden looks as if it has grown up naturally, but some structure needs to exist in order that the whole functions as an enjoyable garden instead of lapsing into uncontrollable wilderness.” (page 16)
Structural planting always comes before other planting in the design process. It can be used to define boundaries; divide a garden into “rooms” or enclosures; it can be used to frame a view or a scene, provide a focal point, or obscure a view so that not everything can be seen at once; to anchor a bed, wrap a corner and to give a garden depth, weight, maturity and a feeling of permanence. It creates the bones of the garden and plays a crucial role in defining its atmosphere, be it formal or informal.
Winter is a good time to think about and evaluate the structural planting in your garden, and also to visit gardens such as the RHS garden at Wisley to gain inspiration. A professional garden designer will always bear in mind some basic design principles when planning your garden: those of simplicity, unity and harmony, balance, scale and proportion, interest and functionality/practicality. If you are interested in having your garden designed professionally, please contact me