A way to introduce structure and winter interest in a formal garden
I'm a little grumpy at the moment: stuck in the dead of a harsh Toronto winter with terrible windchill temperatures making it unpleasant to go outside. Anything resembling spring seems far, far away. The term "winter interest" keeps popping up in my mind: ornamental grass stalks and seedheads, desiccated rosehips and crabapples, how the snow lies on my Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda dogwood). I also thought of a project underway for one of my clients that maybe could inspire you.
When I first came across this part of her garden (at the rear of a rectangular yard, more or less), I immediately thought of a "teatro verde" or "(open air) green theatre" which, I admit, doesn't make make a whole lot of sense. The small area is really just a raised bed with a flagstone patio. The neighbour's 20' tall cedar hedge (Thuja occidentalis) makes up the backdrop or curtain of this "theatre." There were an assortment of shrubs (red-twig dogwoods, rhododendrons, a rose of sharon) and hostas in the bed, nothing too exciting and a bit busy. Flanking both sides of the curved retaining wall were two large yews (likely Taxus baccata) in the shape of, well, big lightbulbs.
For some reason only known to the "design muse," I recalled the "cloud pruned" hedges and topiaries of Belgian designer Jacques Wirtz and the Japanese tree pruning tradition called niwaki. I wanted to create an atmosphere of serenity and calmness with a bit of drama and tension.
Oxymoronic? Contradictory? Incongruous? I knew I was on the right track....
The beginning of a cloud hedge with yews and boxwoods
(I couldn't move the umbrella base!)