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Winter Layering Essentials

Winter Layering Essentials

Creating successful layering in the garden is a little like planning your wardrobe essentials. We all love the idea of a few reliable outfits that you can mix and match for any occasion; timeless in style, an elegant cohesion of fabrics and enough to avoid that early morning fashion frenzy!  

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Layering with plants has similar principles to fashion design - the concept of a few well-chosen basics that seamlessly blend and which suit our particular style. These essentials are also the foundation of a garden and they anchor any interesting plants you might introduce along the way. 

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For beginners, a good place to start is to follow the landscape layering fundamentals. Giving thought to how plants complement each other and how plant combinations give depth to the garden. Think of planting as a stage production. You’ll need curtains, screens, carpets and the actors. Structural plants are the tallest and ornamental trees play this part. Trees are also ideal screens and they add a sense of permanence to gardens. While every garden (no matter the size) should have at least one tree, make sure you pick the right variety for your garden size. The ground level or filler plants consist of carpeting varieties that are planted in groups and which are useful at the front of borders. They’re grown for their flowers or foliage and their ability to keep weeds out. Be mindful though at the speed of their growth as they can become invasive.   

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The middle layer is the linking layer, generally a group of perennials, shrubs, and grasses which provide seasonal change, mood, colour and a distinctive shape. Have fun with this layer – create the rhythm with a flower or leaf colour and repeat it throughout the garden. Think of flower shapes, flowering times and foliage textures that combine well. Where they work well together with a sense of overall flow, harmony and balance can be achieved.

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While design principles steer us towards achieving optimum aesthetics, be mindful of not being too rigid with layers. Layering like fashion is a very personal process so make combinations that feel right to you. Even the most experienced gardeners make frequent changes, moving plants around, taking risks and learning season to season. If you find strong colours and bold shapes appealing then so be it – the idea is to spend time getting to know your garden and use it as an expression of your creative side.


Words by

Kelly-Jean Saffy




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