As much as I like a garden filled with flowers, there is another part of me, The Zen Part, that likes the look of just the evergreens, standing alone, in the Winter Garden.
From November until early April, my garden, here at Whimsey Hill is only about interest provided by Arborvitae, Cypress, Spruce, and Yew. Man-made objects of iron and stone, along with the ornamental grasses help fill in blank spots, and add some extra visual stimulation.
My goal, when placing evergreens in the garden is / was to site them so there is always something to look at in Winter, in front of the gray-beige bark of trees that are without their leaves. I want them placed so my eyes move from one green thing to another, as I look across my 125 x 125 foot back yard. The lawn and garden views are important to me, if I am outside on the deck, or looking from one of the windows that are on the back of the house.
I feel Variety and Repetitive Planting are two important factors to think about, when it comes to decorating land. You want Repetitive Plantings of some of the same plants across a garden space to unify / tie it together. In a way, that is Mass Planting. Variety comes in Specimen Plants that are spread out across your landscape here and there. Here at Whimsey Hill there are an assortment of different shapes and sizes of evergreens. I have nests, mounds, spheres, pyramids, column, topiary, etc, that to me are living sculpture in the garden.
When siting (planting) an evergreen, or any other kind of bush or tree, just don’t bring it out onto the lawn, dig a hole, and plant it. First take the plant out to the location where you think it will look best, set it down, then walk back and forth looking at it from all angles. You can then move it a bit, if needed, so it ends up in the right place. I take the siting process a bit further, by even going into the house and looking out different windows to see how the plant looks from inside. Decorating Land, is not just about planting things, it is about making a Visual Picture.
Over the years I’ve had many ideas about different things that I wanted to add to my landscape / garden. Some of them I just did, while others I had to think about a bit, before I even went out to buy a single plant.
If I question the placement of a bush or tree on my property, I will first put something like a lawn chair, box, pail, some pieces of fire wood, etc in the spot where I am thinking about putting the plant. By doing that I can see how another element would look in that space.
Years ago, I helped my neighbors figure out the number of foundation plants they would need, and the spacing of the plants they were thinking about putting on the back side of their house. We used pieces of fire wood to represent single foundation plants. We added and subtracted wood, moving the pieces back and forth along the back side of their house, until we came up with the right number of plants needed, and the exact spots where they would be planted.
I hope that what started out as an article about showing you my garden in Winter, turned out to be something that inspires you in the decorating of you land. For more ideas and inspiration that might help you with designing your Winter Garden look at my…
Companion Post .. Looking at Evergreens in the Garden 1-31-2012, How to Plant (Design) a garden..Mass versus Specimen Planting 2-17-2011, Some outdoor Christmas decorating projects that you can leave up All Winter 11-26-2011
I hope everything is going well at Whimsey Hill this summer. Enjoy your garden posts immensely. This question is about winter gardens, though.
Maybe you recall, as I did, growing up in the 1960s in upstate NY, stately houses often had dark green painted wooden A frames over foundation shrubs during winter months. Sometimes these had cut out designs of a tree or deer on each side. These were great snow protectors during that era. Recently, someone I know is looking for an Attractive winter snow protection for his arborvitae, which have been installed on a condominium terrace garden as a screen (a row of 6 or 8 in lovely separate box planters). I wish I could send a picture! He lives in zone 5 and is concerned about wind burn (as well as snow) at that height. He has ample space. I have suggested that an attractive A frame in dark green over each tree would preserve the asthetics, compared with wrapping in burlap for the winter. He has gone to great lengths to make this gorgeous outdoor space but may lose those (expensive) trees in just one winter if not thoughful. I looked through your blog for ideas but it seems your evergreens do fine on their own. I agree they are such a lovely backbone for winterviewing. For a condo dweller, it would be a shame to look out on burlapped trees for all those months. Just thought I would ask your thoughts, if not too much trouble. Do you recall ever seeing such painted shelters for trees? It could be these were popular in the Adirondacks for obvious reasons, but I can’t find anything on the web thst matches the elegance of my childhood memories (of course, nothing would, I fear!). Thanks for any insights or ideas you might have.
Hi there Suzanne, I remember seeing, and on occasion still see those A-frame structures here and there. The purpose of those things was to protect foundation plants from falling/sliding snow off of roofs of buildings, not really as a protector for things out on the lawn. I would suggest lightly tying/ binding jute string around the arborvitae trees to keep the branches together in late Fall and removing it in Spring, so the string does not effect the plant’s growth. A person could also wrap them in a light deer protection mesh to keep the branches in place. There are anti evaporation products (I think they are wax based) that can be bought at better garden centers and sprayed on the foliage, which will help with moisture retention during winter. Also he should keep watering them during winter, being that the root ball is above ground level in the planter, I would suggest wrapping something around the planter base to keep it from freezing through, and then covering the planter with burlap (aesthetic). You know that a root ball in the ground is protected by the soil around it, but when it is up in a planter, that is a totally different thing. Being that your friend lives in a condo, does he have a place for storing the A-frames during the off season? I hope my comment has helped in some way ;-}
Thanks so much for your fabulous ideas on winter evergreen care. You are so right about protecting the pots, too, and for being sure to water ahead of freezes. I’m going to use this information for myself, too, although we only get a few freezing nights a year. I have lemon and lime trees in pots on my front brick dooryard (up off the ground on those Italian clay feet you can get to match clay pots) that I worry about in winter. I know this must seem like an odd time of year to be discussing evergreens, but I have 5 tall (6′) arborvitae in pots along the front foundation, myself, and I want to do the best by them by planning out how to move them to the best possible area during the winter months. I will surely pass on your advice to my fellow gardener with the condo terrace. He does have ample space to store such A frames, but definitely, the important point will be retaining moisture and keeping the wind from splitting the tops. Thanks again for your wonderful advice on tree care.
BTW, I was able to go to Bunny Williams website, thanks to your introduction last month, and I found that her ‘portfolio’ page held a treasury of rooms she has designed for various clients that were stunning. But what I loved the most, was how it was possible to use your visual methods to when analyzing the rooms, for symmetry, balance, traffic flow and every day grouping usefulness. I hope some of your readers who have enjoyed your room design features on your website will think to visit and employ your floor plan ‘templates’ as presented on your site. What fun!
Hi there Suzanne, glad you liked the Bunny piece. When it comes to design, and even other things in life, it is important to look to what the famous are doing, no matter how high end it is, and apply things from their work to your own world. Even at Bunny’s place not everything is expensive or precious, there are a lot of nicked pieces of furniture that show wear, but by the way they are placed, they seem to look more valuable than they really are.
A lot of stores, really expensive stores, in the Litchfield Hills area by Bunny’s place have stuff in them that in other areas would be stuff that a friend called “Trash Day Finds”, but it is placed/displayed in a way that makes it look expensive. Once a person knows what they are looking at (in interior decorating, landscaping, even dressing), they know why a room, or whatever looks pleasing. All parts of design are really all about how elements are placed with other things/elements.
Gland to have come up with some ideas pertaining to the arborvitaes that were helpful. Here in up-state New York I go out after every snow storm and with a broom lift/knock the snow off of bushes that could be damaged by the heavy snow. The tying with the string would help keep the branches together, so they would hopefully not bend or snap under the weight of the snow. Last winter was really hard on a lot of plants here. Because the winter was mild, and there was no snow, the plants got no water from melting snow to drink, so they were parched all winter long. Some of my arborvitaes got wind burnt on their north-west sides (brown marks), but have started showing new growth. This Spring and Summer has been dry, so the plants have gone through a lot of stress because of the weather conditions. I keep moving my hose/sprinkler from one part of the garden to the other, and by the evergreens to keep them hydrated. My lawn is all brown, and makes crunch sounds when I walk on it, but there is nothing that can be done. I do hope that August brings some cooler and wet days so the plant world can get some needed relief.