Creating Winter Interest. Work with Mother Nature.

So, it’s summer, and just why are we talking about planning for a winter landscape? Simple – we have to think about it now! When else are you going to do those plantings and move that earth than in the next few months!

Think back to gardening magazines or books you may have read on stately English homes, those that you envy or admire. Many of them feature beautiful outdoor vistas with attractively arranged plant and garden features, sprinkled with snow, and worthy of a gorgeous coffee table book. With a little thought and effort, you too can have the perfect winter garden, whether you have an estatesized property or a small plot!

Tumber and Associates, an internationally award winning landscape design build firm in business for more than 40 years, and based in nearby Orangeville, suggests you consider a number of basic things. To start with, how do you want to use your winter landscape? Do you want to enjoy it largely from inside, or do you want to be a brazen outdoor adventurer of some kind, braving the snow and cold? The bottom line in their philosophy is that you have to think of all four seasons. And not just for the view or use, but for the sounds!


Yes, it is strange to think about water elements in your landscape in winter, isn’t it? Good landscape design puts water elements in the areas where you can best appreciate them in your daily life.

If you really think about it though, why not consider ice skating or pond hockey, instead of just swimming, fishing or boating, if your body of water permits? And just think of the beautiful frost patterns you will be able to watch from indoors as they form interesting geometrical patterns in the ice.

Frozen water is the obvious thing, but Tumber can also create water features which are frost free and run all winter. Imagine how pretty the ice build-up looks from working waterfalls and fountains. Now, also imagine seeing that from your warm and cozy living room window or breakfast table, or even a reading room beside that trickling waterfall? And lit at night – wow!

Pools can be four seasons too! Tumber builds pools to operate all year round. Light at night in this case provides shimmer and reflections instead of a desolate landscape. Clients have the option of heating their pool for winter swimming and can effortlessly control pool settings through an app on their phone. Some clients even set up large screen TVs to watch movies from the water all year round.

Hot tubs are wonderful in winter as well. They can be situated near the master bedroom or a walk out door to minimize any scampering in cold air. I can personally attest to being totally “in the moment” at a spa’s hot tub several years ago, when it was -14C and snowflakes were romantically falling all around me. I didn’t even feel the cold getting out of the water. But then you also can be like the Finnish and roll in the snow like they do after a sauna; certainly braver than I!


Orienting the house itself for maximum heat gain through sunlight in larger windows and minimizing heat loss from glazed surfaces in directions where the wind blows are very easy to implement before you even build. All you have to do is think about it to conserve energy and increase comfort!

Tumber has made “four season rooms” outside with cabanas and pergolas. A large wood burning fireplace accompanied by infrared heaters makes for a pretty comfy outdoor room midwinter!

Speaking of the outdoors, strategically placed berms provide windbreaks and areas for the snow to drop before it smothers parts of your driveway or home.

Smaller structures, and things like urns and well-placed rocks near hot tubs and pools, also add visual interest under the soft mounds of snow when the vegetation has wilted or died down – further removing the bleakness of winterscapes.

Like water, well thought out use of the land itself in terms of contouring and trails allows for full use of your property. Summer walking trails can become snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails, or the hills can become perfect for tobogganing!


Trees, bushes and plants are not only for spring, summer and fall! Their structure and shape can become the main feature in winter too. Think about how they catch the snow to create visual mounding of the fluffy stuff (and even provide snow fencing). Do they contrast with the surroundings or cast shadows? Layering, just as nature does, is key to composing all these textures.

Good species to consider for winter plantings include: Hydrangea, whose stems will gracefully arch laden with snow; umbrella shaped plants and shrubs that catch the snow and frost to create interesting forms; fruit trees and shrubs which will remind you of warm weather deliciousness; Coniferous trees which anchor your home or walkway and add both greenery and beauty, when painted with snow are also good for wind and snow breaks; the Burning Bush and other ornamental shrubs which often provide interesting barks that will be most appreciated in the winter months.


You should think about all seasons in your garden and landscaping. Work with Mother Nature is what Tumber advises for the best results. There are a million things to consider when bringing together the final result, and as always, fine details make the difference. Hard work actually makes it look easy and seamless and gives you that WOW emotional response to your work. After all, it is all in the preparation and thinking out of your effort that makes it look like it is part of the bigger landscape.

Tumber provides full services for both large and small properties with expertise in cultivating immersive environments that are both emotionally engaging and visually attractive. From planning to contouring to planting and all aspects of landscape construction, Tumber specializes in providing a unique and personal design and build to every client and property.

Their last bit of advice? Do not stint. Do not cut corners on quality. Tumber ensures they provide the best of everything to their clients. Like my grandfather said, I am too poor to buy cheap!

Written by: Diana Janosik-Wronski

Author: LivingSpaces

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