Use defined shapes
When designing your garden, you’ll want to start with great structure plants to create a backdrop and offer a sense of permanence no matter what season you’re in.
While colorful blooms come and go throughout the season, an evergreen backdrop provides constant interest. Evergreens grow in a range of habits from pyramidal to globe-shaped. Plus, there are many that are simple to cut into the shape you want, such as the boxwoods (Buxus spp. and hybrids) and yews (Taxus spp. and hybrids) in the photo above.
Add structure with hedges and borders
Planted close enough together, boxwoods grow to form a hedge, just like you see here. Keeping it tightly clipped draws the eye quickly along the walkway beside it, leading right to the door. This low border also serves as a frame for what grows beyond it. The squared shape and dense, rounded mounds create repetition and symmetry in a garden that mixes several types of plants.
Incorporate interesting branches
Winter can be a long, difficult season. Perennials have gone dormant, and much of the color in the yard has vanished. Though deciduous shrubs and trees have dropped their leaves, fully exposing the garden’s bones, there doesn’t have to be a lack of interest.
In the photo above, weeping and upright branches still add shape, even without their leaves. And redtwig dogwood (Cornus alba) draws attention with bright, colorful bark, working like an exclamation point in the landscape.
Use contrast to create focal points
Build even more interest with the bones of your garden when you focus on shape and color, like you see here. Alone, the tight pyramid of the juniper (Juniperus chinensis) is eye-catching. Surrounded by softer, airy vase-shaped ornamental grass, like maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis), however, the dense evergreen becomes an especially striking focal point.
A sweep of bright red Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica) provides balance to the variety of cool green hues. The cream-variegated leaves of weigela (Weigela florida) help brighten the border, too.
Choose hardscaping elements that add structure to your garden
The texture and shape in this garden don’t just come from plants. The well-spaced boulders add unique contrast with their texture, form and even color. While their shape echoes other low-growing mounds in the yard, the boulders’ smooth surface and neutral hue provide resting places for the eye as it scans the garden.
Add accents for multiseason interest
The ornaments and objects throughout your garden are just as important as the plants that grow there. Depending on their material and the winter weather in your region, many can stay in place throughout the year, meaning interest no matter the season.
Mix & match materials
The garden in the photo above relies on containers and ornaments set into the border and along a wall to draw the eye deeper and up. In this formal-feeling garden, a mix of materials, from the metal planters to the cast-concrete ornament to the stone figure in the fountain, still has a cohesive feel. That’s because there’s not an abundance of variation. With its bold presence, the wall of stacked stone is a handsome hardscaping addition, breaking up some of the fine textures throughout the border.
Use accents to create extra interest
Choose just about any sort of unique object to use as an ornament in the garden, but consider the spot you’d like it to go, too. This way, you can accentuate certain combos or play up the already-interesting traits of a planting. With their geometric shapes and lines, the metal orbs in the photo, for example, are a nice contrast to the stand of wispy tufts of blue fescue (Festuca glauca). They add shape and structure that helps define this area.
Plants that add structure to your garden
You’ve seen how structure plants can transform your garden, creating a framework of year-round interest, shape, color and texture. Now get a closer look at 5 beautiful, reliable plants that will do just that anywhere in the yard.
Here, you’ll find a mix of deciduous and evergreen shrubs, as well as perennials with unique traits that stand out in the garden. Find out more about each plant’s unique interest and growing information and see it in the garden.