Snow: Lessons in Perspective


Why is it that, after a snowfall, the landscape looks so much better, even if nothing has changed underneath? Snow offers the opportunity to view your garden with new perspective and insights that can make it more enjoyable in every season.

When you hear the phrase “winter interest,” you might think of conifers, fences and trellising, and other large structural components. But in reality, “winter interest” is anything that sticks up out of the snow or breaks up a stretch of undifferentiated white.

Leaves with subtle coloring variations pop after all else is covered with a monochrome blanket.
This pale blue yucca grabs our notice even though most of it is buried.

Different types of plants become more noticeable or striking in a snowy landscape. With most (or some, depending on your location and garden style) of the leaves gone, any that remain stand out. Snow whitewashes the brown or green of the garden floor, making a background that highlights anything left standing.

Snow and frost accentuate the graceful forms and interesting textures of ornamental grasses.
Differences in foliage textures and shapes become more striking.
Trees large and small make fascinating snow sculptures.

By weaving the landscape together with a white blanket, snow adds a sense of coherence that may be missing during other seasons. In a wintry landscape with fewer plants showing color and foliage, it can be easier to gauge distances and proportions. This can help you figure out if garden rooms and elements are pleasingly sized and arranged.

My courtyard in winter, with the lily pond, patio, and walkway indistinguishable except for their openness compared to the planted areas.

Of course, having spent 25+ winters in Minnesota, my tolerance for snow has become somewhat limited. I still appreciate the visual gifts of snow — as well as the stillness and magic it conjures — but I am glad to be doing so in a sunny climate where it is a temporary phenomenon.

Snow is especially satisfying when combined with a blue sky and passing geese.


  1. The best landscape design book written is titled, The Garden in Winter, by Rosemary Verey.

    All of my garden designs are aimed at gorgeous in February. Pretty in February, pretty all year.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  2. Good points! And here’s another one: when the lawn, beds, etc. are all covered in snow and thus invisible is a great time to try out lines for a design re-do and see how you like ’em. I did this in my last garden by stomping in the snow to create new paths and bed lines and then assessing them from my deck. Susan
    Oh, and after that many Minnesota winters you deserve some sun!

  3. Hello Evelyn,
    I appreciate your moderated response to fall snow. I grew up in and returned to Montana for several years in the 90’s. Snow was beautiful and also horrid, depending. I’m back in Seattle now for 13 years, and I have a hard time grasping that others are descending into the seemingly endless cold. But what joy back then, when robins flocked to a Mt. Ash tree, or when a chinook wind sidled in to melt the frozen waste.

  4. Your garden is like from a winter fairytale! I love the snow! It makes everything look so beautiful and pure! I admit that you are also right – snow is beautiful but warm climate is much better! Thanks for the post! Wish you happy holidays!

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