Choose plants for STRUCTURE
Use shapely trees, shrubs and clipped topiary for a range of winter silhouettes
Without the billowing summer perennials and leafy layers offered by deciduous shrubs and trees, your garden’s ‘bare bones’ are revealed. This is the pared-back skeleton of your outdoor space – the paths, lawns, bare soil, benches, tree trunks and evergreen hedges that each offer a form of ‘winter interest’. Simple design touches, such as a lawn or paths edged with attractive bricks or stones, may disappear for most of the year underneath plants that cascade over them, but in winter they’ll create crisp clean lines and become a feature in their own right. Low-angled winter sunlight highlights the silhouettes of naked trees and shrubs that look especially attractive when dusted with frost or snow. The sometimes-intricate network of bare branches and stems can create a lightness, with their slender filigree forms. Attractive choices include twisted hazel Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, elegant Japanese maples Acer palmatum and the tiered wedding cake tree, Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’. Some perennials retain an evergreen presence while others die back below ground, leaving behind memories of summer in their architectural seedheads and faded flowers. It’s all too tempting to tidy up the garden in autumn, cutting back dying stems to ground level, but some plants are worth leaving: rusty brown sedum flower heads, parchment hydrangea blooms and chestnut fennel umbels add architectural interest to otherwise empty borders. Evergreens, especially those pruned into crisp lines or shapes, offer solid forms that lend weight to a planting scheme and topiary can be used to great effect. Closely clipped box and yew work as focal points to draw the eye through the garden and, when repeated at intervals or strageic positions, can create a sense of rhythm and cohesion. Cubes, cones, spirals and long lines of hedging create a formal feel, whereas topiary balls have a softer, less structured style and can be planted in clumps or dotted about for a more informal look.
Blond Hakonechloa macra ‘Alboaurea’ and inky Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ provide an eyecatching skirt beneath trees
White branches of Betula utilis ‘Silver Shadow’ stand out against evergreen Ilex crenata