Adding Structure to the Garden

Adding Structure to the Garden

Thoughtfully placed structures, trees and shrubs have a big impact on the overall look and feel of your garden. Knowing where to add these elements simply requires a slow walk around the garden.

Understanding the Bones of the Garden

The bones, or structure of the garden, are elements in the garden that do not retreat with the first killing frost. Trees, especially specimen trees, as well as shrubs are valuable natural garden structures. Man-made elements such as benches, arbors, gates, fences or the curved line of a garden bed—set with stones, bricks or metal edging—create design elements that accentuate the garden year-round.

A Visual Guide

Have you ever looked at a garden and it seemed to get lost? Without visual guides—created by bones or structure—the eye doesn’t know where to rest or where to register the end of a garden. When this happens, the garden becomes lost in its setting. To rectify this situation incorporate visual guides such as:

A curved garden bed accentuated with a strongly cut edge that directs the eye from the front door, along the front of the home and to the side garden.
A specimen tree planted in an extended garden bed that anchors the garden while identifying the space as a garden vignette.
Couple the hard garden edge with a specimen tree and you know the space is a garden, even in the winter months.

Create Vignettes in a Large Garden

When you look at a large garden, your eyes dart about, looking for a place to rest. Successful gardens incorporate vignettes—mini-gardens that make up a unified, cohesive garden plan. Possible focal points of a garden vignette include:

  • A specimen tree or shrub
  • Bench
  • Urn
  • Statue
  • Small water feature
  • Birdbath or birdhouse


Walk about your gardens while taking inventory of these easy-to-incorporate garden structures:

Well-defined garden beds with interesting lines for winter interest
A defined backdrop or end to the garden. Does the garden bleed into the neighbor’s yard or does a backdrop—made with a fence or shrubs— define the garden?
Focal points within a garden such as trees and shrubs that add crucial winter interest.
Man-made objects such as an urn, column, garden gate or arbor to designate the transition to a new garden space or to act as the focal point in a garden vignette.

Anita Putti

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