Designing the Winter Garden: A Symmetrical Plan

Designing the Winter Garden: A Symmetrical Plan

Now before you go looking at my hand drawn art please note that I do not claim to be an artist, just a gardener. The paint I am used to is usually accompanied by foliage, flowers, and fruit. The “artistic rendering” below is intended to illustrate the image inside my head for one of the two concepts for the winter garden. The illustrations in this post and in tomorrow’s post hopefully will give you enough of an idea that you may be able to offer suggestions about the placement of the plants. In the end I may decide to take your suggestions, go with the original plan, or even do something completely different!

So now that I’ve given you the disclaimer here’s the drawing!

This view is all about symmetry. Symmetry in the garden can be great but does have some pitfalls. If one plant dies and the other survives then it may be difficult to match the original with a replacement. Symmetry looks very organized which makes natural looking plants feel a little out of place. That being said I think this plan could work nicely.

The Yoshino Cherry tree stands in the middle and is flanked by the cranberry cotoneasters. To the front would be two red twig dogwoods. Toward the back would be the Bird’s nest spruces and in each “corner” of the garden would be a rosemary plant. There are a few plants that I put in the picture that would be worked around these foundation plants including several irises, creeping phlox (not purchased yet I’ll wait until spring for them), and a couple ‘Mystic spires’ salvias. I plan on keeping at least 5 foot radius clear around the base of the tree to prevent any damage to the Yoshino’s roots while digging. Most of the trees roots will live in the top layers of the soil, not down deep in the ground which makes it important to provide adequate moisture or add complimentary plants underneath. Sedums make good choices for underplanting trees since they are extremely tolerant of drought conditions so I may add some ‘Dragon’s Blood’ sedum in the spring. The whole garden is on a slope and most of the moisture should move toward the red twig dogwoods.

This is just one plan and it has its problems. I think I like my second plan better as its layout is asymmetrical and groups the plants rather than spreads them out. I’ll show you that one tomorrow, stay tuned!

I have a couple of Schip laurels that I am considering adding to the plan. I would probably put them behind the Yoshino between the Bird’s Nest spruces if I move them a little farther apart.

Previous Posts on Winter Gardening:
Designing the Winter Garden: Aspectual Musings
Designing the Winter Garden: Starting Small


Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 5 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. How big do the plants grow? I think it looks very nice, not only can you garden you can draw some too!

  2. I love your drawing and it’s great idea for planning a garden.

  3. I’be been enjoying following your blog for awhile. I think your drawing is wonderful. As someone else who loves to use plants as her creative medium, I am often frustrated by my lack of drawing skills!

    I purchased four cranberry viburnums two years ago when I started landscaping/gardening around our new home in Macon County, NC. I have yet to see a berry on them…is it too early?
    They were VERY small. (I purchased them from Arbor Day.)

    Anyway, I love this plan. Thanks for sharing and good luck.

    Kathy Stilwell

  4. Gee Dave, I think your drawing is perfect! It clearly shows your intent. Good luck with it!

  5. Thank you for your very kind words about my art skills. 😉


    Thanks for following the blog! The Arbor Day trees take a while to produce anything. The fast growers might take 2 years or more to flower and the slower ones much longer. Cranberry Viburnums tend to be somewhere in the middle. I would expect blooms either this coming spring or the following one. The plants that Arbor Day sends are very small, probably to reduce the costs of shipping. Just keep them happy and they will bloom eventually!

  6. Hi Dave, this is a good plan but brings some questions to my mind. Which is the front and which is the back? The spruces will stay low and be blocked by the dogwoods if they are at the back. Are you looking at it from your house or from the street? The tall stuff should be behind the shorter stuff for the street side view. But you already knew that. Be sure and space everything for its final mature size so you don’t have to dig around those tree roots too. That is a mistake I made with my yoshino in front and some gold coast junipers. I finally had to take them out altogether, too crowded with the winterberry hollies. Even though it looks so sparse, use annuals or something to fill in, not perennials that will have to be moved later, especially not the salvia, for it will be quite shady under the cherry tree soon, think about the canopy, things I did not think about!

  7. Frances,

    Those are some good thoughts! The street view is virtually nonexistent here. We sit below the road and the most people would be able to see would be the top of the Yoshino. The garden’s main view would be from our sidewalk or the living room windows. The spruces should stay fairly low which is why I may plant the Schip laurels for additional greenery. The trick here is playing with the slope. If I plant the spruces as I put them in the picture they will start 12-18 inches higher than the lower side. It’s hard to tell from the drawing but if you look at yesterday’s post with the Yoshino cherry picture you can see the slope better. Those are good questions!

  8. I’m not sure that I like symmetary in this sort of bed. I like it when the setting is very formal such as box ball either side of a path but I think your design looks too contrived. I think the cornus would look good as a group more dramatic. I prefer a more naturalistic style with ribbons of plants. To me the problem is having two of certain plants which tends to push you towards symmetary – thats just my thoughts but then I’m not really sure what style/effect you are after apart from winter interest

  9. Patientgardener,

    I prefer the second plan I put together. Even though I only have two of each plant to plant it isn’t symmetrical and relies on grouping rather than parallel plantings. I like the more natural look as well. I would like to add more Red twig dogwoods as I can propagate them.

  10. You’re a much better artist than I am Dave. I try to do a rough sketch when I plan a new garden too. The symetry is nice. Look forward to seeing what else you got in mind.

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