In winter, gardens more resemble a blank canvas than they do at any other time of year. Not yet in full glory are the warm colors of the yard– the reds, oranges and yellows which seem to bring the view closer to the viewer. Also not yet maximized are the cool colors, the purples and greens, which give the illusion of depth to small spaces. In this less distracting view, a landscape’s design can be evaluated, appreciated and recrafted.
To do so, ponder the area’s simplicity, balance, focal points, lines and proportions. Explore its colors, textures and shapes.
Look for simplicity. Also known as unity, this landscape design principle reduces distractions. It sheds excessive variation and instead hinges on simple repetition– repetition of a color, a species, a shape or another element across different parts of the landscape. This repetition ties garden areas together, providing wholeness and unity.
Identify balance. This principle provides visual order. In formal landscapes, the order is often built around a center line. The garden spaces on each side of that line tend to be mirror images of each other. In informal or naturalized landscapes, the balance is usually asymmetrical.
Discover focal points. Focal points create interest and accent for a particular arrangement of plants. Your focal points may include a unique specimen plant, a statue, a fountain or an arbor.
Find the rhythm, the line. How is the eye directed through the landscape? It follows repeating elements, hedge rows or planting beds. These link the landscape, letting garden spaces flow.
Size it up. Look at the scale or proportion of the space and its elements. Is anything too big, small, far away or close?
With the basics of landscape design– simplicity, balance, focal points, lines and proportions– sketched on the canvas, now add more detail.
Imagine the warm and cool colors that will soon burst forth in fullness. What do you want to bring nearer or give more depth to with color?
Think about the texture of the view. Imagine the smooth and rough, the coarse and fine, the sharp and soft. Which textures complement each other and which run together? Which do you want to accentuate or introduce?
Ponder the three-dimensional shapes, the form. See the vertical, horizontal, spherical, narrow and columnar. Which shapes fit where?
Think about the design, colors, textures and form of your current and ideal yards. How well does your current space use landscape design to provide interest all year long? What changes can you make this year to get you closer to your ideal?
Plant selection is an important part of landscape design, of moving you closer to your Eden. With color, texture, shape and proportion in mind, here are a few flowers, shrubs and trees to try as you evaluate, appreciate and recraft your garden.
To add warm colors in the growing season, try Coreopsis or black-eyed Susan. Coreopsis produces a multitude of yellow flowers which continue through summer. Black-eyed Susans, or Rudbeckias, give daisy-like blooms from late summer to frost.
To add cool colors in the growing season, try English lavender, pincushion flower or campanulas. Delivering fragrant purple blooms, lavender is a garden favorite. Pincushion, or Scabiosa flowers, bring an airy light blue color to the garden. Campanulas deliver blue, bell-shaped flowers over low evergreen leaves.
For growing season color that continues into fall and winter, plant dogwood, cotoneaster, witch hazel, Oregon grape, barberry or hawthorne.
After its spring blossoms and fall leaves are through, dogwood’s barren red or yellow bark shines against the winter palette. Far after cotoneaster’s small spring blooms fade, red or black berries brighten fall, and many varieties are evergreen for cool winter color. After its yellow flowers are long finished, Oregon grape’s purple-green foliage decorates December. To the dark winter view, Witch hazel, or Hamamelis intermedia, brings yellow blooms; Japanese barberry and hawthorne bring red berries.
With plant choices in mind, use landscape design principles to guide their installation. Skillfully use simplicity, balance, focal points, lines, proportions, colors, textures and shapes to create landscape interest all year long.
To learn more, attend the free Gardening in Nevada talk “Four Seasons of Interest,” 6-8 p.m., Feb. 14 at Bartley Ranch Regional Park in Reno.
Ashley Andrews is the horticulture communications assistant and Heidi Kratsch is the horticulture specialist with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Horticulture questions? Contact 775-336-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit growyourownnevada.com.
Shrub selections for all seasons
Sidebar by Wendy Hanson Mazet
When looking for plants to add dimension to the yard year-round, focus on structure and the weather elements that could affect the plant. There are many shrubbery options, but here are a few that will provide great esthetics.
Spiraea is an extremely hardy and diverse genus. With over 80 different species, a homeowner can choose from small to tall, from one-time bloomers to multiple blooming times. These are considered among the easiest flowering shrubs to grow. Baby’s breath and Anthony Waterer have been around for years. They not only provide ease of maintenance but beautiful flowers and habitat too.
One of the newest to come out is Double Play® Candy Corn™. Spring growth emerges candy-apple red and matures to a pineapple yellow. Talk about pop. Who needs flowers? But it does flower in late spring with dark purple blooms.
Another classic is Syringa or lilac. Most people are familiar with the old style with beautiful lavender to purple blooms. New varieties give much more to choose from. When looking for something smaller than 15 feet and more delicate in form, look at the cut-leaf-lilac. It is a graceful hybrid that produces fluted pale lilac flowers in late spring. The flowers attract not only butterflies but native hummingbirds as well.
For dead of winter color in the yard, options become more difficult if green is not your thing. Look at the many varieties of dogwoods. They feature dense green leaves with white flowers in the summer. But, in winter, twigs of fiery red, radiant yellow or firecracker orange are revealed, adding pop to any winter landscape.
New plants come out every year, and local nurseries bring in as many appropriate species as possible. Take time this year to look for something new, adding color and dimension to your landscape.
Wendy Hanson Mazet is a horticulturist and certified arborist with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.