Planning for Winter Interest

The other day I received a phone call asking me to give a presentation to the Douglasville Master Gardener’s next month at their monthly meeting.  Of course my first question was “What is the Topic?”  I am very excited to say they asked me to speak on Landscape Design.  Although this could not be a broader topic, I have spent the last few days trying to come up with an angle that would be new and interesting and today, after attending an industry seminar at Callaway Gardens, I have an idea that might just fit the bill.

One of the things that impressed me at Callaway during the first week of February is how well they plant for winter interest, I am sure that you have noticed many cool winter interest plants this year, since our temperatures have been so mild, if you haven’t, take the time to really look this year before things begin to spring out.  Mainly we think of winter as a time of dormancy, a time to shut our doors to the outside.  Well let me tell you, with proper planning you can add sparks to your landscape now that will increase its beauty next winter.  When planning any garden, winter is a great time to really look at the bones, taking into account the natural silhouettes, forms, light and patterns present. Without the distraction of leaves and flowers, the true shape of trees and shrubs can be appreciated.  In addition to the shapes, look at how plants contrast with each other; notice the different textures present.  As you observe, look for plants that offer peeling back, winter flowers, unusual colors, and beautiful shapes.

Once you have a palette of plants you find interesting look for a sight that you will see often as you come and go or one you will view regularly through a window.  Remember to think about obvious structures that will be highly visible once all the foliage is gone.  You may not want to look at A/C units, utility areas or dryer vents regularly.  As you plan your winter interest garden, remember this design theory: If you design a garden for winter, the rest of the year will take care of itself. With this in mind, remember that some of the best winter characteristics of some plants are hidden during the rest of the year. Leaves will cover unusually colored or exfoliating bark in spring and summer as well as hide and soften strong horizontal, vertical and angular lines, leaving you beautiful greens with which to plan and plant your spring and summer garden.

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