Decorating with the bones of the garden

Published 9:35 am Saturday, December 31, 2011

Carol Hegel Lang’s garden still shows some of its structures even in winters when it snows. Other bones of the garden, like brickwork, are covered up by snow.

Column: Carol Hegel Lang, Serendipity Gardens

When I talk about the bones of the garden it always draws strange looks from people. No, there aren’t bones lying around in my gardens, it is the hardscapes of the garden. Be it brick paths, stone walls, trees and shrubs, gazebos, arbors or anything else that is a permanent structure in your gardens.

Carol Lang

The bones of your garden can be the material that borders your gardens (bricks, plastic, concrete or wood), it is what defines the garden all year long. In winter these bones are very prominent when the ground is brown and bare or snow covered. They are what brings the garden to life at that time of the year when the flowers are no longer blooming and the trees have shed their leaves.

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On a wintry day I love to look out at the gardens and see the snow-covered evergreens or perhaps the arbors or even the bird feeders. It is no longer a stark white palate; I have several bright purple items in the garden that immediately draw your eyes toward them. The Victorian gazebo stands tall with all the scroll work adding interest to an otherwise bare garden.

Even pots left standing can add interest to the garden and also remind me of what was in the garden during the growing season. Not all of my pots are the same style or color; I have some cobalt blue ones, some that are tall and shapely, and some that define the kind of garden they are in.

Submitted photo

In my front yard is a small corner garden bordered on two sides with a split-rail fence, a brick path leads me to the center of the garden where an old-fashioned windmill stands to give me that punctuation mark in this garden. In the summer it is covered with morning glories in bright blue, but in the winter it is the focal point of the garden because the only thing visible with the snow cover is the fence and the windmill. This is when the bones of the garden become the prominent center of attraction. The brick path can no longer be seen nor can the bricks that surround the garden. So I need something else to define this garden.

Some of the gardens have trees either in them or next to them; they provide interest throughout the four seasons. In the summer they are the backbones of the gardens that add punctuation or they just blend with the rest of the garden because of their color or texture.

The Victorian garden has flowers in shades of pink, maroon or red; the two trees planted in this garden are a red oak and a Diablo ninebark. As fall approaches the oak leaves turn a lovely shade of rusty-red and the ninebark has crimson leaves all summer. They provide a coordinating color to the flowers planted there. The gazebo is tall, adding the height this garden needs and as the oak grows the gazebo will eventually just fade into the background. The garden is bordered with red bricks that match the patio blocks in front of the garden.

An oval island garden in my backyard used to have a huge oak tree that provided so much beauty to this garden; unfortunately, this tree had to be taken down. I needed to add height so this garden didn’t appear to just be sitting in the middle of the backyard. A friend constructed a large gazebo out of old telephone poles with electrical wires are strung on, these poles were all toppled by the Halloween blizzard of 1991, we reused these poles rather than having to send them to a landfill or some other place. There is also a bench in this gazebo and growing up the sides and over the top is clematis. During the winter lattice work adorning the sides will have snow packed on them, and if there is frost it’s really a lovely sight. This huge expanse of lawn is adorned with this hardscape adding interest in the winter months.

When you plan your garden think about the long dreary winter months and what you can add to the garden to give it interest. Trees with winter berries, evergreens and shrubs are just a few of the items that will give you this, but the possibilities are endless. One of the newest sensations for many gardeners is the grasses that have appeared on the market. Use your imagination and try some different things each year and before long you will love your winter gardens as much as I do.

So the bones of the garden that are prominent in the summer months become very important during the winter months, choose wisely and allow some money in your budget when you start your garden for these “bones” to play a prominent role in your gardens.

Go ahead and be daring, see what you can create that will keep your love of gardening alive during the winter months when flowers are not the main attraction.