As autumn and winter approach, it is a good time to take stock of your garden, to ensure that it has plenty of interest in the coming months and on into winter.
Everyone gets excited about their garden around Easter time when we are tantalised by the first glimpse of warm, spring sunshine – and quite rightly so! Often, however, your enthusiasm at the beginning of the season tends to focus on what the garden looks like right at that moment and your choice of plants is based around what is currently looking good and in flower. If you can spare a thought for how your garden is going to look over the rest of the year then you will soon reap the rewards.
Evergreens are an obvious go-to choice to provide vital structure in the colder months: Hebe rakaiensis and Taxus baccata are both good options to clip into tightly formed shapes which look good over the winter.
I would recommend also having a focus on bark and leaf colour in order to provide an additional layer of variety in your garden. Epimediums look their best at the end of the year when the low sunshine filters through the leaves on a crisp December morning.
The bark of dogwoods such as Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ and Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ provides a fantastic burst of colour with their bright reds and oranges lighting up the garden. If you cut the stems right back in late winter/early spring, it will ensure next year’s growth maintains the same intensity of colour.
And last but definitely not least are ornamental grasses. They are such low maintenance plants and effortlessly provide months of interest, softening the hard lines of winter with their gentle movement and creating a dynamic ambience to an otherwise static space.
Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is a really good choice, as is the smaller Anemanthele lessoniana. It can be fairly short lived, but it readily self seeds, naturally providing you with new stock.
Late Flowering Perennials
In terms of planting, make sure you leave some space in your beds for perennial plants which are going to flower later in the growing season, as well as shrubs which are key for winter structure.
If I were to pick out my top three herbaceous recommendations, Veronicastrum would be there with its slender flowers appearing on the ends of tall spires. It’s a great choice for adding impact, reaching to 1 – 2 metres high.
The rich crimson pinks of the Echinacea purpurea is my favourite of the late flowers in the Asteraceae family and the bees absolutely love the daisy-like flowers. Compared to Rudbekia and Helenium, I find Echinacea to be the most reliable in terms of hardiness and it looks great planted in drifts in amongst grasses.
Finally, I could not do without Anemone x hybrida – I love the way the flowers gently nod in the breeze, floating up above the attractive palmate foliage.
Do not be too hasty in cutting these and other herbaceous perennials back after flowering – their seedheads look great in the winter months, especially with a touch of frost on them, and they provide a vital food source for birds through winter.
Moving on to the hard landscaping, a well-considered feature will create a focal point, drawing the eye through the garden. In the summer months, it might not take centre stage but as the year progresses, it can come into its fore. It does not need to be big or expensive – it could simply be a seating area at the end of a garden path, a bird bath, or an archway enticing you through to another part of the garden. If you want to up the scale with a garden sculpture or sun dial, then that would also be a great addition.
In terms of the positioning of the feature, it is worth considering the key view points from inside the house as you will spend more time indoors in the winter months. Look out from your windows and assess your views of the garden over the coming months – could they be improved with a planter, a bench, or a water bowl?
A combination of all of the above will ensure that your garden maintains a level of interest through the year. As the seasons change, so will the planting and focal points, meaning that the garden does not just fluctuate from being packed full of interest in high summer to a rather barren expanse in the depths of winter. Instead you will have a well thought out garden which maintains a year round rhythm and vibrancy.
Katie runs Katie Reynolds Design which offers garden and interior design services across Aberdeenshire and the North East of Scotland. She is qualified in both sectors, having trained at KLC School of Design in London and the National Design Academy. Follow Katie for more inspiration on Instagram and Facebook.