The winter landscape
By Ray Ridlen
With most of the plants resting during the winter months, adding interest to the winter landscape can be a challenge. Hardscape--those non-living materials often used to establish the framework and backbone of the garden--is a key element in sustaining landscape design year round. A good hardscape will be pleasing, functional and provide interest during the winter months when many plants are dormant.
Hardscape materials include rock, pavers, concrete, and wood, as well as other substances. These materials are used to create pathways, walls, fences, borders, benches, arbors, sculptures and other structures.
Using hardscape materials that are naturally found in your area, such as native stone, will help it tie into the natural surroundings. Using materials that are complementary to the materials used to build the home helps tie the home and landscape together. The landscape then becomes an extension of the home as well.
Many plants also provide interest during winter months. Evergreen trees and shrubs hold their leaves and colors year round and contribute form, texture and mass to the garden. Some deciduous trees and shrubs have interesting or colorful bark that can be seen easier and be more appreciated after leaves have fallen. There are also a number of species that produce colorful fruits that remain into the winter months and may provide food for wildlife as an added bonus.
Herbaceous perennials may contribute to the winter landscape as well with their dried seed heads and interesting forms and shapes. Ornamental grasses are particularly attractive as they take on neutral colors and move in response to breezes.
The winter is a good time to evaluate the landscape and identify its strengths and weaknesses. It is also an excellent time to work on the landscape features of the garden. There are several excellent books and magazines with creative design ideas to help accomplish this. These may be found in a local bookstore or library.