I’ve updated this post to include a little more info on the state park in Pittsburgh – a really lovely city!!!
photo 1
When this  front yard garden was planned, I included plants that would have both color and structure in the winter months. The branches of the redtwig dogwoods go unnoticed during the rest of the year, but during the Winter they’re the star of the show. We also put in boxwoods, which are to the right of the front door. Over the next few years they will fill in their spaces, creating a picture of rich green and vibrant red, framed by the white snow and the cream colored bricks of the home.
Winter is a great time to assess your garden and make plans for the upcoming planting season.  When you’re taking out the garbage, shoveling snow, getting your mail, pulling in or out of your driveway, or walking your dog, take mental notes of your garden.  Look for spaces that need color or structure.  Make a note of the parts of your garden that are hardest hit during the winter, whether its by snow, salt, or wind.  Observe and critique, and then write it down.  Because the weather varies greatly during the winter, with rain, sleet, snow, winds, and ice, you will need to make these observations over the next couple of months, not just weeks.
Once you have done your homework, you can get started with your plans.  Begin your plans with, you guessed it, more observations followed by homework. The upside here is you get to grade yourself.
You need to look first at different types of gardens, starting with shapes. Do you like curvilinear or rectilinear?  Curvilinear is easier to plan and install as a DIY project, but many people feel rectilinear is easier to maintain.  Make observations as you are walking in public spaces which are usually well maintained in the winter months, making it easier not only to observe the designs, but to actually walk through no matter the weather conditions.
Here is a great example of a public park with a sweeping curvilinear design. This is Point State Park in Pittsburgh. 

This is a beautiful park with sweeping landscapes in the foot print of historic Fort Pitt.

Note that the use of native plants in a natural design was a new concept at the time.

These sweeping curves are defined by the use of large natural stones, which also create a slightly raised bed. This is a relatively easy way to edge and create a raised bed.

Here’s a closer look at the material used to create the raised bed.

This type of stone/brick makes creating a circular (curvilinear) raised bed much easier as you do not have to cut the stone to make it fit.  In this photo the stones are set in mortar, which is unusual in an area which has a frequent freeze thaw. More than likely it’s because this park has professional maintenance and the mortar can be repaired or replaced as needed. As a homeowner in a cold weather area, using a dry set method would be more practical.

Blue Stone was used to create the rectilinear portions of this garden, as both edging and for patios.  The natural brick stones were used with the blue stone to continue the rectilinear pattern. I think the use of the natural brick stone with the sleek blue stone make the design more interesting. But that is a matter of preference.
So when you are trying to decide which patterns you like, also take notes on which materials strike your fancy.
This is good place to start.  So this is where I will leave you.  Next Week – How to use plants to accent your design choice.  See you next week.

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