A Garden For All Seasons

winter garden design snow

A Garden For All Seasons

Snow is forecast. Tomorrow morning (and my children are VERY excited already), we’ll be woken up to a white landscape.

Our kitchen opens out onto the newly landscaped terraced garden. But it won’t be featureless under snowfall. There’ll be the shape of hedging, trees, planters table and chairs, and walling. The lights will work. There’s always something magical about garden lights under the blur of snow.

It’ll be a white garden, but still a strongly defined garden.

A rule of garden design (and one I always follow), it to design first for winter.

Start by imagining a garden under snow. Most of the plants have died back, there’s no colour, no movement. There’ll only be the bones of the garden on show.

What are the bones? Hedging (especially evergreen hedging), walls, steps, trees, topiary and outdoor furniture and features. The proportions and positioning of these ‘bones’ are what give structure to a garden year-round. Of all garden styles, Islamic gardens have the best bones. Given their location in places of great summer heat, the focus in these gardens isn’t plants, but shade, water and well-defined pathways. Flowers – what many of us think of as the heart of a garden – are an afterthought.

Go to the gardens of the Alhambra Palace in southern Spain and you’ll see parched planting beds hidden behind hedges, with a mismatch of flowers and no shortage of weeds. It’s a shock at first. But it doesn’t matter. What makes the gardens of the Alhambra amongst the greatest in the world are their proportions, their detailing and structure – their bones.

Of course, I love designing with flowers. With our temperate climate, and wonderful nurseries, we are a nation of flower-lovers. Even in winter, there are wonderful scented winter-flowering plants such as witch hazel, viburnum and daphne. But in a well-designed garden, all flowers should be seen as a bonus. For a garden for all seasons, you need to start with the bones

Look out over your garden this week, especially if snow has fallen, and you’ll see what I mean.