Each week Mansion Global tackles an interior design topic with an elite group of designers from around the world who work on luxury properties. This week we look at how to design a beautiful winter garden.
Contrary to popular belief, the beauty of a garden isn’t just limited to warm weather. “More and more, homeowners are looking to extend their time to enjoy gardens,” said Jennifer G. Horn, RLA JHLA/Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture in Arlington, Virginia. In fact, a winter garden, “with berry-bearing plants and plants with remarkable bark or evergreen foliage can provide engaging views and plentiful habitats for non-migratory birds and other beneficial wildlife,” Ms. Horn said.
“There are a number of pluses to having a winter garden,” said landscape designer Fernando Wong, founder of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design in Miami. “You can save money and get additional health and emotional benefits—and, you can literally have a fresh produce section in your yard. Since the temperatures are cooler, there are fewer pests and it’s more comfortable to be outside,” Mr. Wong said. “For some, the change of seasons can be a depressing time, so a winter garden provides some life and color, which pleases both the senses and the soul.”
Pick plantings wisely
“For bark, one of my favorite plants is the variegated red twig dogwood. Its green and white foliage is beautiful during the summer, but the bright red stems that are revealed when the leaves drop are beautiful all winter, particularly after a snowfall. For smaller spaces, try red-stemmed Virginia sweetspire. While most gardeners are familiar with the beautiful bark of the crape myrtle, plants like stewartia and paperbark maple have remarkable texture and color as well. White, paper, or river birches are all beautiful trees that shine in the winter (though birches tend to be messy, dropping a fair amount of twigs and small branches).
"Berry-bearing plants are wonderful for their winter interest and also typically provide food to birds. Check out winter king hawthorne, winterberry holly, snowberry, or wintergreen.
"In small gardens, don’t overlook the benefit of using evergreen perennials. Lambs’ ears, rosemary, lavender, holly fern, and purple palace heuchera are some favorites of mine.
"And, there are plenty of plants that even bloom in the winter. Camellias—depending on their variety—begin blooming in November and continue through mid-winter. … Some varieties of rhododendron and azalea (very similar types of plants) bloom in the winter. Winter aconite, crocuses, and early varieties of daffodils can even get you through the late winter.
"Very little care is required. In the absence of natural leaf litter or groundcover, consider mulching.
"If you are trying to lengthen the season of tender plants, always place them in the warmest spot—or microclimate—of the garden. Against walls, especially south-facing walls, is best. If dramatic measures are necessary, the temporary use of burlap or tarp helps insulate plants, but if that’s a measure that’s taken too often, it is probably best to let go of that species in order to plant a hardier alternative.”
— Jennifer G. Horn, RLA, JHLA/Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture LLC
Plan placement strategically
“Plant it in a sunny location because most plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Especially when it comes to vegetables. The more sun, the greater the harvest, the bigger the veggies, and the better they taste. Choosing a place with good soil is also important. Plant roots penetrate soft soil more easily and you should always make sure the place you chose has good drainage.
"Some good ideas for winter vegetables are lettuce, carrots, and beets. Some flowers that work well include Petunias, Diascia, and China Aster.
Photography Courtesy of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design
"In many areas, winter means regular rainfall, so keeping up with watering is less of an issue. A great tip is to mulch over your plantings to help preserve the moisture in the soil. Slugs and snails are ubiquitous, but you can help keep them at bay with copper finishing around raised garden beds since they do not like touching that particular type of metal.
"To protect your plants from frost, bring them inside if they’re in a pot. Planting beds should be covered with burlap or old bed sheets. This helps to trap the heat from the soil, so it’s important that the fabric goes all the way to the ground.”
— Landscape designer Fernando Wong, founder of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design in Miami
Bring the outside in
“If you live in an apartment, you can still enjoy the fruits (or plantings) of a winter garden.
"Choose plants, such as philodendron species, that will thrive in an indoor space. This particular species flourishes throughout the seasons and adapts readily to the conditions inside the home, offering green foliage year-round. Plus, it helps to regulate humidity levels and adds fresh oxygen to its surroundings.
Photography Courtesy of 1508 London
"Natural light, maintained temperatures, proper watering and space to grow are key for an indoor winter garden. The trick is to try to mimic the climate and conditions of the environment that the plant came from. So, the first thing to consider when selecting your house plants is where you want to put them and if the environment is suitable to the plant’s requirements. An all-glass room or a space with an abundance of windows is ideal.”
－Designer Hamish Brown, partner at 1508 London
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