Planting in winter

What’s important about a garden in winter?

You want a moment in the garden to be quiet. There’s so much to do in the summer, with cutting and keeping up with plants and just enjoying and looking at the garden. Sometimes it’s too much. In the winter you need less to get satisfaction from the garden. If you have only a few plants in the garden in winter, it’s enough to keep it interesting.

Aren’t flowers the point of the garden?

A lot of gardening is focused on flowers. People don’t realize plants can be beautiful after flowering, and they cut them down before they can even see it. I look outside now and see the clematis that flowered in the summer but is more interesting now that it is showing seed heads.

If you make a four-season garden you have to learn to accept decay and see the beauty of it. It’s about the texture and shape, the seed heads and the skeletons. So instead of using the scissors you use your eyes.

Where does one begin?

It’s a learning process. I think you should go to botanical gardens or arboretums, not garden centers. It’s important to see the plants in the context of a place. That’s where you’ll learn the most. Now is a good time to look at flowering shrubs and trees to see their true form.

How do you choose plants?

You have to start with an idea about the garden. Put yourself in the context of the plants. Some people go for tall plants, as if to be in a space hidden and mysterious. Some people want to feel as if they are in a meadow.

Make a list of plants you want to use. Don’t choose from pictures, but by flowering time, height, color and texture. Learn whether the plants are perennial or short-lived. That is the most essential thing. If you create a garden, you want to have it for a long period, not just for a season.

Where are annuals appropriate?

Basically, a garden should be more sustainable. You can use your annuals and biennials to fill gaps, but they shouldn’t take over the garden. When you work as a designer in a public environment, they don’t want you to put in plants that die the next year. When you have a private garden you have the joy of buying new plants. But don’t overdo. A garden does not need to be too decorative. Go for simple flowering plants instead of the double-flower varieties. If you buy the right plants, it looks good. If you buy the wrong plants, you have to redo it every year.

Evergreens seem like an obvious choice for winter. How much do you depend on them?

Evergreens add depth to the garden, or the scenery of the garden, but you don’t need too many. In winter you don’t expect a garden to be green. It’s about scale and balance. Evergreens have a place, but other things play a role, like texture and structure.

The character of shrubs and trees shows most before and after summer and in the winter, when you really see the branches. That is sometimes more interesting to me than seeing an evergreen.

How important are grasses in winter garden design?

Grasses are mostly dominant in public gardens because they are so easy to use and they appeal more in a larger landscape than a smaller garden. In a public garden, it’s all about how long the garden will last. Grasses have very long lives and are stress-tolerant. They don’t need as much water or care as perennials do.