Wintry Plant Inspiration

You can’t beat a morning like this morning for some wintry plant inspiration!  Clear blue skies, a deep frost both at ground level and in the trees.  A slight mist as the sun rose.  Perfect.  Yet I found my ‘Garden designer’ eyes drawn to the uncut hedgerows and wilder landscape to admire the full effect that ‘Jack Frost’ had cast.  

Winter landscape scene

Many of the gardens I passed this morning were stripped bare, save for their trees and amorphous  shrub shapes. Their main plant beds of perennial and grasses had been cut down in the autumn. I hear so many people say, ‘my garden looks lovely in the summer – please don’t look at it now!’.

Plants for wintry inspiration

So when looking for plant inspiration, why not plan for a year round landscape scheme?  It’s about finding some beautiful combinations that look just as beautiful in the winter as they do in the summer.  And that way you get more bang for your buck!  The rhythm of repetition of shapes, the form and height are just as important things to consider in winter.

Wintry garden planting with frost

So from my rambling with my iPhone camera this morning…

Backbone structure 

The boundary or garden particularly at mid and upper height levels.  Hedges that look good in winter as well as summer such as Taxus baccata (yew). Or try Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam) and Fagus sylvatica (Beech) which, whilst not evergreen, hold their leaf to give rusty texture.

Multistem trees ideally in a lovely umbrella form or trees and shrubs with notable bark. So Prunus serrula, Betula nigra or Betula utilis var. jacquemontii add lovely focal points and really sing in the winter. 

Gardening tip from my lovely gardener Kate… “in autumn, peel off the bits of bark that are peeling off to really show off the stems of the Betula utilis”.

Mid level winter structure

Then at the mid level the stems of Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’ or other Cornus varieties create colour and new form.  So too do majestic grasses such as Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ and many other Miscanthus varieties. They look especially good when repeated through a large bed, to create a rhythm and balance.  

And topiary shapes – domes, squares, cones, cloud pruned to name but a few shapes, create wonderful anchors. Perfect wintry plant inspiration. If they are repeated through the garden, it makes it feel cohesive. So our preference is to use Taxus baccata (Yew) for topiary. But more recently we have used interesting shapes with Ligustrum, Pinus sylvestris, Pinus Nigra and Pinus mugo or the deciduous Carpinus betulus.  

Perennials and grasses

So at the lower level, purposely choose perennials and grasses with excellent winter structure properties.  And dare to leave them standing through the winter to result in wonderful wintry plant scenes.   Some combinations that drew the eye closer to the wintry plant inspiration detail this morning…   

Frost effect Hylotelephium 'Red Cauli and Stipa lessingiana
Hylotelophium and Stipa 
Frost effect Pennisetum 'Hameln'
Pennisetum ‘Hameln’
Frost effect Monarda
Monarda ‘Beauty of Cobham’
Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’
Frost effect aster ann leys
Symphyotrichum (Aster) ‘Ann Leys’
Frost effect Patrinia
Patrinia punctiflora
Frost effect agastache and salvia
Agastache and Salvia

Then last but not least add some colourful furniture that sings throughout the year and encourages to sit out whatever the weather!

Contact us for planting design and furnishing ideas

And in terms of a book recommendation:

Planting: A New Perspective – Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury