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Whatever new material you add should work within the context of your summer symphony as well as with current plantings to form a garden plan that will largely stand on its own as a winter composition. Study the beds in the high impact areas to evaluate their present winter structure.

What is left in late fall?

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Is there a strong evergreen component, or is more evergreen material needed? If more is needed, what textures and heights might enhance the current design? What deciduous trees and shrubs currently work to provide interest and structure in these high profile winter beds? Take another look at the lines of your garden. Winter simplicity places much greater emphasis on line.

View from the parking area up the steps to the front path.

Junipers, spruces, pines, and other conifers provide structure, against which an abundance of flowers, in the ground and in containers, stand out in summer. Color is the final aspect you need to consider in your winter garden planning. The winter palette, like its structure, is more spare and restrained. Gone are the abundant blooms of summer with their extended range of iridescent color. Color is the star of the summer garden, supported by the texture and structure of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs.

The winter garden reverses this relationship, and the garden becomes more about structure and texture with color playing a supporting, but important, role. Most color in the winter garden comes from the evergreen and deciduous plantings; colors range from yellow to brown, to a spectrum of green and blue, and finally red and plum into mahogany and black.

This creates a misty, almost hazy color effect in the winter garden that is intensified by the likelihood that plantings will often be covered by a glaze of water from dew, fog, or rain on the West Coast.


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In this surreal, watercolor- like garden, red is the color that adds magic and, fortunately, is a color easily found in the winter aspect of many deciduous and evergreen plants available to the winter gardener. Same view in mid-winter, with containers more prominent as herbaceous plants disappear.

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Studying the winter perspective, I identified specific garden beds as high impact areas seen by family and visitors during winter. Our property on Bainbridge Island slopes fairly steeply from south to north, and from east to west toward the lower bank overlooking Port Orchard Sound. A large property, we have terraced it on a number of levels. The house is approached by a long driveway that sweeps downhill to a parking area, from which brick steps and a curving path lead to the front porch. Because a significant portion of the garden is highly visible in winter, with beds seen from both close-up and distant vantage points, line and dimension are critical.

The garage, parking area, house, and arbor comprise the straight lines on the property; all other lines driveway, front path, flower beds have been developed as sweeping curves, which keep the eyes moving across the multi-terraced garden from bed to bed, and reflect the distant undulating, lapping water of Puget Sound.

Gail Paul's autumn favourites

In summer, line and dimension are important but take a back seat to the abundant color, texture, and sheer volume of the plantings; during the winter months, particularly with beds viewed from a distance, line and dimension have a greater impact on the garden.

Over the last few years, as I became more aware of this, I have increased the size of these beds and refined the lines to create the sweeping effects I wanted. Same view in winter, with stems of deciduous shrubs and trees providing colorful accents against the curving lines of the beds. As some of the beds were increased in size and the lines improved, additional winter structure was added as part of the garden plan.

Japanese maples, various conifers, deciduous and evergreen shrubs, persistent perennials, and evergreen grasses provide winter structure and texture. In one area, for example, blue wheat grass Elymus , Euphorbia rigida , and Hebe were effective for only a limited season; I replaced them with a prostrate dwarf blue spruce Picea , Euphorbia wulfenii , and pheasant tail grass Stipa arundinacea —plants that added year-round structure and texture to this highly visible bed, but also worked within the context of the other material.

In these important areas of my winter garden, color was also a major concern.

Gardening for all seasons | Your Easy Garden

Line, structure, and texture are the cake, but color is the frosting. The new material I added not only needed to give year-round texture and structure to the beds, but also needed to work from the standpoint of color. Together these plantings form a winter composition of vivid color seen from a distance, with the dark stems of the barberry and the maple contrasting with the bright red bark of the dogwood and the willows. One final consideration for the winter gardener is the importance of containers and garden art. Winter is the season when these pots can have the greatest impact and are, therefore, needed the most.

Barnsdale Gardens For All Seasons

I have clusters of pots on either side of the front steps, filled in summer with a core planting of evergreen, usually dwarf, coniferous material and a mix of annuals and perennials for color. I personally like to look for plants that I can use throughout the year in different ways and one of my favourites are the Storm Series Agapanthus which have been specifically selected for the amount of flowers they produce.

Even after the blooms have passed, Blue Storm stems are great in flower arrangements. Festival Burgundy combined with Storm agapanthus stems make a simple, elegant floral arrangement. For those of you in areas where cold would prevent you from overwintering this plant outside, the tough cordyline foliage makes this an ideal indoor plant as it will not suffer from the dry conditions that air conditioning causes which often is a negative for indoor plants.

The foliage from this plant also makes a great addition in any floral arrangement. Finally, one of the new plants we are working with is one which provides more interest than just the bloom and that is the new series of Fairy Magnolias. What makes these plants so interesting apart from the fact that they are an evergreen, flowering and fragrant hedge suitable for topiary, espalier or use as a specimen plant , is that they form these beautiful russet-coloured buds for weeks ahead of the flower bursting forth.

A Garden for All Seasons

I would be happy with just the flower bud in the garden, so the bonus of the flowers that follow keeps this plant interesting for more than just the period when it is in flower. So when you are at the garden center next or planning your next planting scheme try thinking beyond just the key period of Spring when it comes to your plant selections, and look for plants that will provide interest in the garden throughout the different seasons and have additional features that add interest, such as the buds on the Fairy Magnolia or the spent flower heads on Storm agapanthus!

Fairy Magnolia , festival burgundy cordyline , storm agapanthus. Email will not be published required.