Topiary is a living green art form. This evergreen structure is typically made from Box, Yew, Ilex and Conifers which keep their shape well. They provide excellent winter interest with a strong structure of crisp clear lines and a focal point for the visitor’s eye. If snowfall is heavy gently knock it off the branches to prevent them being damaged by the weight of the snow. They will need an annual trim to maintain their creative shape and they can be trained into any form to resemble almost anything from a boat to an eagle! The only downfall is these topiary structures can take many years to grow until the desired shape is achieved. Often started using a wire or bamboo frame to help get proportions and dimensions correct. As a grower you must remember that these plants are living and will require feeding and watering just like the other plants in your garden. Play with your imagination to create topiary balls, cones, spirals or lollipops for striking evergreen focal points or if you feel brave try to create your own shapes especially animals which often bring a touch of whimsy to the landscape.
One of the latest trends in horticulture are terrariums where you can create and assemble a miniature plant world to admire in your own home. A terrarium is a small glass case that allows you to grow plants with little effort or specialist skills. They act as a unique living space between indoors and outdoors. This is not a new concept as in 1800 Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward discovered he could grow a plant in a sealed glass bottle which would provide enough carbon dioxide and oxygen, plus moisture for it to survive. After this the Wardian case, a sealed portable mini greenhouse, was invented by Sir William Hooker. The Wardian case was used by many plant hunters to bring back live specimens of plants from far away places. They would arrive in perfect condition after being at sea for months. Terrariums act in the same way like mini greenhouses which can be decorated with coloured pebbles, moss, lichen and pine cones. When designing your terrarium select small plants and nestle them into a mix of soil and light grit for drainage. If the terrarium is sealed select plants which prefer high humidity such as orchids, ferns and venus fly traps and create a mini greenhouse. If the terrarium is not sealed you can select drier plant species such as cacti and succulents. Let your imagination run wild and create a miniature plant landscape for your home.
Winter’s cold palette can even curb the interest of the most enthusiastic gardener. Colour is a very important element of any garden as it creates the scene that awakens the senses of the visitor. Winter doesn’t have to be depressing. Work with that palette to create subtle tones, highlights and contrasts of colour. Once the trees and shrubs have lost their deciduous leaves their skeleton branches become the backdrop of the garden. The gardener must work creatively to use striking flaming red and golds against the paler winter hues. Flashes of carefully placed plants will provide surprise, shock and joy. Brightly coloured berries look magnificent against evergreens like yew and holly. Allow the winter sunlight to filter through the branches onto the white trunks of birch trees as this will add atmosphere to any garden in winter. Each season nature presents a different array of colours that we must work to enhance and create the desired landscape we are drawn to even on the dullest winter day.
There is nothing better than foraging in your garden for winter foliage, berries and pine cones to decorate your special holiday wreath. Some spices such as cinnamon, star anise and dried oranges can even be added to your wreath. Use the foliage such as the evergreen material to pad out the wreath frame – put the same amount all the way around. Make sure it is even all the way round and not too heavy to hang on your door. Use florist wire to attach the plant material, berries and cones and allow your creativity to flow by decorating as you wish. Try using plant material like holly, pines and evergreen Magnolia that will last and still look good throughout the whole holiday season. Attach pine cones using wire pins and remember to attach wire or strong string that will allow you to hang carefully on your door. Now all you need to do is add a length of brightly coloured ribbon and attach using a loop of wire.
If you have a dry fountain why not create an attractive display of succulents in your garden. Use cascading, rosette and clump forming varieties. Simply add some compost if the growing depth is shallow this is ok as succulents tend to have shallow root systems. Ensure there are holes for the water to drain easily. As each tier is smaller than the one beneath work on arranging your plants with small rosettes at the top of the fountain and work your way down. Try to pick contrasting form and colours of succulents for visual appeal. The best part of this design feature is you can use trailing succulents placed over the edge to mimic cascading water. Why not illuminate with evening lighting to extend your enjoyment of this lovely garden feature.
A tree seat creates a sociable and relaxing area within a garden. The seat can generate a calming atmosphere that allows the visitor to view the tree canopy and garden from all angles. It can also draw visitors to an unusual specimen tree and help highlight its interest. A tree seat also provides shade from the sun for the visitor allowing a place to sit and admire nature. The seat wraps around the trunk of the tree and it can be enhanced by painting the seat white to lighten the area and focus the visitor’s eye. The seat can be made out of metal or wood to create a contemporary or rustic feel to the garden.
A container is the ideal example of horticulture theatrics. Pots can be moved to various positions and changed multiple times throughout to year to add colour and interest. Containers can also be a great place for small trees or shrubs to grow before being transplanted into the open ground. Containers allow us to play with planting combinations. Containers can range from a spectacular showpiece in a courtyard to a series of containers used to screen a view or brighten an area. Bigger containers are more dramatic and provide more room for planting combinations. It is important to make sure the container has good drainage and compost for the plant to last the season. Dark containers heat up in the sun and are good for early spring plant combinations.