How To Have Winter Interest-Hardscape

The easiest, most maintenance free element of winter garden interest has to be the hardscape, the non living bits and pieces that never change. You set them there, they sit there, as my English teacher grandmother used to say. In colder climates, they will need to be frost proof. Statuary and art, home made or store bought, sometimes gifts from friends and family give depth of meaning and stir fond memories of travels and cherished folks. Placement is important, but don’t fret too much about something referred to as “good taste”. If you like it, that is all that matters. If your eye prefers to be bombarded with stuff, so be it, it is your garden, after all. Let not the opinions of others color your creativity! Besides, most things can be moved or changed later on, if you evolve to a more minimalist attitude, as I have. Don’t laugh, now, it’s not polite, as my grandmother would say. Added: The whole story about the Bongo Congo family can be read by clicking here-A Little Whimsy In The Garden.

Reinforced concrete or high temperature fired glazed pottery can also remain in place all through the year in our zone 7a garden. Containers needn’t have plantings to be attractive eye catchers, but the effort has been made to have some evergreen type things in the ones seen from inside the house. Hypertufa troughs withstand wintry blasts well and mosses have planted themselves for some welcome green velvet during cold months. Even as some of the permanent plantings go dormant, the moss comes to the forefront in fact, on our north facing slope.

Metal is a good material for artistic sculptures or rusty old garden implements, even found objets d’art. Old barrel rings, automobile brake shoes, old wire cylinders protecting a tiny fig tree with an insulating blanket of leaves are interesting and good conversation starters. They add character and age to a brand new garden. A few well placed plantings, or simply gravel and some rocks complete the tableau.

The hardscape can be expensive if you can afford it. Or you can make your own geometric masterpieces.

Store bought or fashioned by the gardener, both are equal in the garden. There is value in either.

Pathways and walls, stepping stones and fences are central to the look and feel of a garden space, no matter the size. Besides offering safe and dry transport, the lines of straight or curvy carry the eye to the far reaches of the garden, sometimes hiding what lies just behind that shrub.

Don’t forget the borrowed views of neighboring properties.

Don’t forget the usefulness of colored glass.

Don’t forget birdbaths, birdhouses and birdfeeders as high art, and a good way to be wildlife friendly at the same time.

There is one piece of real art in the Fairegarden, a birthday gift from The Financier. It was a surprise while we were living in Texas for my fiftieth birthday. The story of its providence has been lifted from one of our very first blog posts:

One of the nicest and bestest birthday gifts from my better half was this iron pineapple sculpture purchased during our three year stay in Texas, in a suburb half an hour north of Houston. The garden purchasing choices in that area were a shopaholicโ€™s nirvana. Exquisite plants, pots and potions were readily available from multiple sites, each more fun than the next. Expeditions into Houston were frequent although the driving side of those trips were stomach churning, not for the faint of braking ability. At a favorite haunt in town, while on another pleasant foray of plants and lunch, my dear friend Ulana and I went to a native plant shop, Another Place In Time. Right at the entryway was this outrageous black metal pineapple covered in purple velvet species petunias. Jokingly the remark was made that this would be the perfect birthday present, then peering at the price tag, oops, no way, too expensive, never mind. The birthday arrived, we had a friend (Ralph, who hosted Gail and me during our England trip) staying with us who was video taping the garden to show his wife back home and I was giving the official tour. A wonderful stone planter was on the patio, one that had been admired while on a look see trip onto town with MBH (now known as The Financier). Gushing happily with gratitude for the lovely container on camera, the tour continued. We covered the perimeter of the small garden, and entered the jungle in the middle, the grotto it was called. Standing proudly was the pineapple, blending beautifully with the white azaleas, R. Mrs G. G. Gerbing. Tears were flowing, totally surprised, caught on tape, a moment of extreme happiness! Ulana, you are a jewel. This is a large awkward piece and the welds could not hold during the move from Tx to Tn, it is held together with rebar driven into the ground , but this bit of black in the garden is prized above all others.

Click here-Color In The Garden-Part Three to see the entire post and the photo featuring the pineapple sculpture.


This is the final post in the series How To Have Winter Interest. As the solstice comes and goes bringing longer days and warmer sun angles, ever so slowly, let us enjoy our gardens as changes abound. Various plantings can help us get through these cold times. Colorful ground covers and grasses, evergreen trees and shrubs and the ever important hardscape all offer something to gaze upon while we wait…

…for this.

Links for the rest of the How To Have Winter Interest series of posts are listed below. They can also be accessed by clicking on the How To Category of the sidebar.

How To Have Winter Interest With Non Green Evergreens
How To Have Winter Interest -Garden Grasses
How To Have Winter Interest-Seeing Green
How To Have Winter Interest-Shrubs Small And Large
How To Have Winter Interest-The Big Guys

For other How To posts written by Fairegarden, look for How To on the sidebar page listing or click here.


This entry was posted in Design, How To, Seasonal Chores. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to How To Have Winter Interest-Hardscape

  1. Carol says:

    Your winter interest is superb, Faire Frances. And it becomes even more interesting with a bit of snow on it. But as you point out, in more northerly gardens, we often have to put up or cover pots and statues, etc. during the winter time because they can be completely covered over with snow, anyway. Great series!

    Thanks dear Carol. The snow is certainly icing on a winter landscape, especially when there is a little as we get here in Tennessee. Metal or hypertufa would be better choices for your area, right?

  2. Good Morning Frances, What a fabulous post with all of your whimsical and lovely objects d’art! I have meant to ask you about your portrait in stone . . . did you sculpt it? I love your first photo. Your pots are so beautiful . . . my humbler ones would crack and fall apart if I left them outside. This is a very important topic to enhance a garden during less bountiful times as well as those in full bloom . . . an area I need to work on! Sweet story about your Pineapple sculpture. Thanks for the inspirational post! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Hi Carol, thanks so much. The Bongo Congo family were made by me, a story about them can be read by clicking here. Maybe I should put a link in the post. Metal might be a good material for containers and art for you in the frozen north? Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas to you too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Gail says:

    Dear Frances, I agree with Carol~this has been a great series…You’ve given us good ideas and much to think over. In our zone 7 gardens containers, paths, objets d’art are especially important. The story of the visit to the nursery and the pineapple sculpture surprise birthday present is wonderful~xxoogail

    Dear Gail, thanks. I am hoping this will be a resource for gardeners looking to improve the view from the window during the colder months. We can all use some cheering during that non gardening time. Glad you liked the Pineapple sculpture story. It was a very special day, and since you have met Ralph in person, can imagine it more clearly.

  4. Ewa says:

    Good Afternoon Frances, this is wonderful idea for posts, because I think majority of us have something to improve in our gardens, to make them looking interesing also in the winter.
    In our zone 6 additional elements that add vertical structure visible despite of snow carpet look so beautifull ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve added only old barrels 2 years ago – and even that makes the difference.

    Oh dear Ewa, so nice to see you, thanks for visiting! Our time together in England will never be forgotten. What pleasant memories! Old barrels sound delightful, with or without snow. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. commonweeder says:

    You always have such well thought out ideas, and this is a useful and inspiring series. I realize I have almost no attractive hardscape in my wintergarden, but for the moment I still have my solar lights (which I will bring in soon), and a stone bench. I’ll have to put on my thinking cap. I love the whole series.

    Thanks Pat, for those kind words. A stone bench should so romantic, and perfect for northern climes. I imagine a box of evergreen boughs as a holiday decoration on it, with berries. I am so glad you liked this series, it was fun to put together and made me think about my own garden in a new way. Always a good thing, that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Eileen says:

    Got some great ideas from this post, bottle glass, those sculpted faces in the snow, etc. I need lots of interest because of the snow. I have structures, fences, gates, arbors, etc., but I need a little whimsy.


    Thanks Eileen. It sounds like you have plenty of interest with all that hardscape. I would love to have a wonderful gate, with a simple evergreen wreath on it for the holidays. Whimsy is mostly what we have here, we are silly. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Marguerite says:

    Your winter garden has so many lovely things still to behold peeking from under the snow. And each piece has a story to tell which makes it all the more interesting.

    Hi Marguerite, thanks so much. We don’t have much snow, it melts quickly, but adds such a beautiful wintry touch to any garden, even piles of junk look like art! It is a good idea to catalog the art pieces, telling all you know about them for the future. I need to do that.

  8. Really good post. Great series. Having winter interest is so important especially because it isn’t so cold in our climates that we don’t get outdoors much.

    You’re so right about it being your garden and whatever you like should be what you have as winter and summer interest.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks. These last couple of years we have been outside much less, but still want something fun to gaze upon. Especially after the hubbub of the holidays dies down, we like to just look out the window and daydream. Every person’s garden should be their own, just like the interior of the houses. Good taste be darned!

  9. This has been such a wonderful series of posts. I have enjoyed them very much. You have so many beautiful garden ornaments, all wearing their wintery finest, that I do not know where to start. I so much like the birdbath with the head coming up for air through the ice. The snow and ice add so much character to the objects and the garden itself and also accentuate form and structure, two important elements of the winter garden.

    Thanks Donna, I am so glad you liked this series. It was fun to think about what exactly had been done in my own garden over the years to help improve its looks in winter. Snow and ice really dress things up, but most of the time it is simply cold and drab here. We need interest! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Hi, Frances!
    I haven’t visited for awhile but this is a nice, quiet week so I read up on each of your ‘interest’ posts. That non green evergreen kind of threw me but now I get it! This is a terrific series. Can we talk you into publishing a gardening book? Hope you have a fun-filled week of holiday celebrations. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hi Kate, wow, what a sweet and ego building comment, thanks! Are you sure you haven’t been possessed by my offspring? HA You too have a wonderful holiday! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Nothing more fun than to see a surprise in the garden. I am a firm believer in doing what you want in your own garden. It will eventually turn out as you want.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. Of course your garden reflects your style and tastes, you are such an artist! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Lona says:

    Hi Frances. You do have some lovely eye catchers in your garden. Everything here is covered with snow and now is the time I wish I had planted a whole passel of berry bushes or holly around in the yard.LOL!
    Wishing you a Wonderful Christmas!

    Hi Lona, thanks so much. I love seeing snow on stuff, it adds another dimension to the winter garden. We don’t get enough snow here to count on. That is why we need to have more colorful and interesting plantings. Holly with berries is particularly fetching. A wonderful Christmas to you as well! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. When my customers ask me for advice, I always preface the answer with the phrase “don’t forget it’s your garden”. Books, design principles, and professionals can be helpful, but the garden is for the gardener. As you said, if you like it, that is all that matters!!! Carolyn

    Hi Carolyn, so true! There are no mistakes, just plant whatever appeals to you. I would hate to think someone was afraid to garden because they couldn’t make something that looks like the magazines.

  14. I love all your bits F. They add so much interest in the garden and can be a major part of the garden’s bones as you have shown here. There is nothing better than a well placed garden accent and you have shown some fine examples of that here.

    Hi Helen, thanks. You do know all about garden accents with your lovely Haven. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. carolyn says:

    Just now catching up on your series, Frances and I must say what a great resource they are. I especially love this one on the hardscape.

    A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

    Hi Carolyn, thanks, so nice to see you. I am hoping these posts can be used by people looking for ideas to jazz up their winter gardens. Hardscape is a wonderful way to do so, no matter where you are gardening. The best of Christmas and New Years to you too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Lola says:

    Frances this was a most thought provoking post. I really enjoyed reading the stories. The special one in per tickler. It reminds me of my 50th. The surprise.
    I too like art of sorts in my garden, wishes for more but the finances are minimal. Some I try to make.
    Love those grasses.

    Hi Lola, thanks so much. The metal pineapple is very special indeed! When we can’t afford art, we make it ourselves. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Balisha says:

    Hi, I am looking at my garden in a new way…and to think that I put so many things away. I’m afraid that my garden is a bit boring, but after seeing what you do…next year it will be different. Have a wonderful Christmas. Balisha

    Hi Balisha, thanks so much. That is exactly the reaction I was looking for! Inspiration for the future. Onward! And very Merry Christmas to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. VW says:

    There are so many fun ideas in this post! I’m looking forward to watching spring in your garden as I wait months and months for it to come to mine ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a wonderful holiday.

    Hi VW, thanks. I will be cutting stuff down In January and spreading cheap bags of manure everywhere, thanks to your inspiration. This winter has already been one for the books here, and it is only the first day! I am ready for spring. A very Merry Christmas to you and yours. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Andrea says:

    Hi Frances, those are wonderful advice, practical, beautiful and sometimes amusing. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

    Hi Andrea, thanks so much. A Merry Christmas to you and yours. ๐Ÿ™‚

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