As spring nears, we imagine ourselves smelling the roses and plucking tulips to liven up our home. But before we celebrate the changing of seasons, let’s embrace the beauty found in the starkness of winter landscapes. The bareness of the branches, freshly fallen snow (usually, that is. This year? Not so much!) and subtle scale of colors are what brings drama to wintertime. Before your garden fully awakens from its winter sleep, soak in its incomparable winter beauty that you will have to wait many months to see again. Embrace the exposed landscape because in no time at all, blooming buds will herald the arrival of spring, and the haunting beauty of your winter gardens will be quickly forgotten.
“Winter brings clarity to the structure of the landscape. It reveals nuances of the beauty of the architecture and architectural spatial relationships,” says landscape architect Ben Page of Page|Duke Landscape Architects. “It is a very calm time of year when you can focus on a few beautiful, small details. It is one of my favorite seasons because of the revelatory process of seeing the architecture of landscapes unadorned by flowers. I love flowers and the splendor of flowers, but there is something calm about a winter landscape and subtle colors.”
Today, Ben Page takes us on a stroll through two striking winter gardens.
Bare Birmingham Garden
This garden is bare, which in this case is meant as a compliment. Without the summer blooms, each architectural element can shine. “This project is all about spectacular architecture. And it was fun for us in that we were able to marry a bold statement of French architecture with a very romantic landscape,” Ben says. “It was fun for us to take very commanding architecture and essentially mitigate the impact of the architecture with the landscape. Nuances and shadows are really a big deal in the space.”
In the Birmingham climate, Southern species are able to thrive. Plant life includes camellias, azaleas, magnolias, crape myrtles (for seasonal color) and osmanthus (for fragrance). It was a disciplined plant palette, according to Ben. “The camellias would be lost in the summertime, but in the winter, when they are in full bloom, they are a commanding presence,” he shares. Each decision was made to showcase the texture in the sculptures, which is emblematic of the textures throughout the garden.
Winter Landscape with Seasonal Interest
This Nashville project has gone through several phases, with the first being the initial acquisition of the house and the addition of a small garden and small pool. After the homeowner acquired more property, it allowed for Page|Duke Landscape Architects to expand the scope of the project, almost tripling the size of the landscaped space. “The huge landscape has lots of seasonal interest — primarily indigenous plants and grasses and holly berries,” Ben says. The homeowner has an interest in wildlife management, so a lot of things were planted specifically to nurture wildlife. The eye is drawn to the expansive lawn, which is home to much activity in the warmer months. The second phase of the garden project had a focus on the native grasses in the lawn and bold displays of flowering shrubs. The connecting link between the two phases of the garden is the pavilion, which houses seating and an outdoor fireplace. Ben categorizes this as a social space for the homeowners.
“Do not be discouraged or intimidated by winter,” Ben reminds us. “It can be the most elegant of any season because it’s a quiet season, one in which the garden can become really important in your life. Enjoy the beauty and simplicity of the refined textures of winter. It is a really special time of the year in this part of the world.”
We are a-okay with the groundhog seeing his shadow as long as we can continue to enjoy beautiful gardens like these!
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