Shepherd House Garden is brimming with winter structureIs your garden looking drab and uninspiring at the moment? You may have planned it over the summer months while outside enjoying the sunshine. If you can make your garden look good in winter, it is likely to look great throughout the year. Here are 5 tips for creating a garden that looks good – even in February.

1. Add some structure to your gardenCrathes_Castle_Walled_Garden

Although larger than your average garden, the walled garden at Crathes Castle is a good source of inspiration. It has structure by the spadeful, with its towering topiary hedges, geometrically laid out paths and wooden arches that lead you through the garden.

Although less formal, Shepherd House garden in Inveresk (pictured at top) was also brimming with winter garden structure last weekend. These ideas can be ‘borrowed’ and used on a far smaller scale. While you’re tucked up indoors by the fire, it is worth mapping out your garden on paper. Create a framework of screens, paths and focal points. These will define the spaces, lead you through the garden and frame the points of interest. As well as plants, sculpture can also be used to add interest and humour.Sculpture in the winter garden

2. Choose plants with strong shapes or eye catching bark

Tried and tested evergreens are the staple of the winter garden. However, look out for trees and shrubs have eye catching or tactile textured and peeling bark. Acer griseum, Prunus serrula and Betula albosinensis (top picture) and dogwoods are some of my favourites.

3. Feast the senses with some fragrant plants

In these months of sensory deprivation, some of the best fragrant shrubs are in bloom in the winter garden. Their exquisite and powerful scents are used to attract the pollinators, which are thin on the ground at this time of year from far and wide. Line your front path with the oh so elegant Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ or easy going honey scented Sarcococca confusia. I can guarantee these will put a skip in your step as you head off to work or return home on a dreich February day.

4. Light up your winter garden

Garden lighting ideas for the winter gardenOver the winter months, it is often dark when we leave the house in the morning and dark when we get home. Add a few splashes of light to illuminate plants with great shape or texture, water or sculpture. This will add a touch of magic to the winter garden, even if it is only to be viewed from a window. The light show at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh that was created by Black Light before Christmas was a great source of inspiration.

5. Add a few pretties to ring the changes in the seasons

Iris unguicularis adds colour to the winter gardenLastly, choose perennials that come in to their own in this early part of the year. These will add a splash of fresh vibrant colour to your winter garden borders. Examples include hellebores, the violet flowered and also fragrant Iris unguicularis (pictured above) and of course a liberal sprinkling of snowdrops. Colour in the Winter Garden by Graham Stuart Thomas is a classic read that is packed with ideas to brighten up the winter garden.