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Look beyond plants for a gorgeous winter garden

Draw attention to the naked landscape with sculptures, fences and other structures.

When designing a landscape that will attract year-round interest, people typically choose evergreens and shrubs from their plant list for their foliage and texture. Frozen grass and seed heads give the winter garden a sculptural quality, while fruit-bearing stems and colorful branches add welcome color as the garden transforms into a monochromatic, snowy world.

But where does the eye rest when looking at the winter garden? Are there one or two focal points that make it hard to take your eyes off of a warm coat and boots? The beautiful mahogany bark of Paperbark Maple sprouting in the snow certainly stands out as does a stand of Red Twig Dogwood, but there are other ways to focus on winter. Advantages of structures such as barns, gazebos, fences, and large and small sculptures.

To be effective in this way, these pieces need to be clearly visible in winter, so carefully plan their relationship with surrounding plants. To create a winter vignette that will add drama to your barebones garden, these focal points should be surrounded by plants rather than suffocated by them.

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

Arbors, archways and pergolas. This arbor is the entry point for the larger blend boundary. It consists of a trio of simple arches connected by rope swags. While adding height and scale to the garden, the structure is transparent, allowing it to frame the plants beyond, not obscuring the garden.

It’s tempting to use structures like supports for climbing roses or vines, but this unique design won’t make much of an impact if covered in this way. The open silhouettes and interesting material combinations hidden under the intertwined stems are lost.

Instead, tall shrubs and perennials flank the framing path rather than suffocate the focal point. In this frosty scene, weathered wood and rope become part of the monochromatic winter scene, but far from it.

Cabins and garden sheds. Many gardens have some kind of shed for storing tools or planting plants. My cabin, a converted cabin, has been used for a variety of purposes: a summer guesthouse, a writing studio, a place where frost-resistant plants winter, and even a registry office for my son’s garden wedding. No matter how you use it, a barn is an important structure that can be your winter focal point.

Unlike the open pavilion shown earlier, this solid wall obscures the garden beyond, but can be a perfect screen for wispy spikes of seeds and weeds. These fine textures tend to disappear into the hazy mud of the garden, but are projected onto the walls of the room, bringing each detail into focus.

Like the gazebo, keep the plants low to frame the building rather than hide it. An exception is paperbark maple, which serves as punctuation marks. Filling skins add vignetting, and tall slender silhouettes keep the design from bland.

Imagine this scene without the cabin. Tapestries of interesting shapes and textures remain. However, due to its structure, it is a true winter garden with enchanting paths that lead you to a charming focal point.

Sculpture and garden art. From large-scale installations by professional artists to small,
whimsical pieces at shows and craft fairs, we buy sculpture and garden art because we love it. why
hide it?

Place the piece in a place where it can be appreciated on a cold winter day in your home and consider its association with the surrounding plants. These plants are an integral part of the overall scene, so you shouldn’t compete with or belittle the sculptures, but enhance them.

This is an example of dramatic stone carvings at the Botanic Gardens. The figure has a regal presence in itself, but the tall, lopsided grass stand adds meaning, especially in an empty winter landscape.

The juxtaposition of cold, hard stone and rough, frozen grass creates an inviting focal point in winter, with subtle color echoes between the tawny foliage and sculptures the rest of the year.

Have you ever taken home a small piece of garden art and wondered where to put it before putting it in “space” to wander around the garden? It could physically fit there, but it might not be an ideal place if your plants aren’t related in any way.

This simple heron looks like a dark shadow among the reeds, partially obscured from the world, just as we’d expect to see in the wild. Ready to dive for dinner. We can imagine fish swimming in puddles under the snow.

Careful placement is key to creating a natural scene. Evergreen hedges or solid walls don’t look realistic, and metal birds don’t appear.

These pieces are easily portable, so don’t be afraid to move them to a more suitable location for winter viewing. Perhaps you can create a focus that wasn’t there before.

Fences and benches. A fence can do more than mark a building boundary. A piece of art like this can be a design element in its own right. Standing in the middle of an open winter landscape, this unadorned swag hedge has a sculptural feel.

The bench, which used to function properly in the warm season, still invites us outside on a cold day, and the snowy landscape catches our eyes. Here, the structure of the fence and benches work together to create a winter vignette softened by the pale, faded grass in the foreground.

New house. Not all focal points have to be large or expensive. Even a simple weathered birdhouse can attract attention if placed properly.

Birdhouses can get lost far away from large landscapes, but it’s a good idea to place birdhouses close to the house where you can see them through a window or through a garden entrance. It is also beautiful in a small garden.

Again, grass is a subtle framing, but it plays an important role in keeping the birdhouse visible.

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