secret garden arbor and gate

5 Things that Create Year-Round Beautiful Garden Design Christian homemaking country living fashion blog

Learning how to design a garden starts with observing the garden…


I could have titled this article “The beautiful spot amid a tattered rental property and what it taught me” but that is long winded.

This has been our rental property for only four months which makes the dream of an established garden, that takes about ten years to become what it ought, seem like a distant goal. But there were certain features in this largely undeveloped property that speak to great garden design.


This may seem a bit slow and unimportant but number one to garden design is to become an observer of your surroundings. Become acquainted with where the sunlight hits, where the shade remains, where rainwater drains or pools. This helps in choosing the right plants for the right areas. You must know these things.

While this property is shabby and in need of landscaping, I was enchanted with this lovely courtyard, that got many things right.

There was an old treasure in this neglected rental property: a mature vine that was clearly planted decades ago. The evergreen leaves buoyed the whole property during the cold days of January when everything else was dormant and brown. This is just a small spot in the tattered acre but let’s just take a moment to drink it in.

star jasmine flowering vine

1) Plant Climbing Vines

I cannot emphasize planting climbing vines enough. Buy arbors and plant vines on them. Place the arbors in front of gates or a place to delineate a doorway. Climbing vines give character to a garden like few other things, even better if they are evergreen climbing vines and will retain their leaves and beauty year-round like Star Jasmine.

This climbing vine is everything I knew I would want in a garden, but I had never met until now. I have since read all about Star Jasmine and will leave it up to you to venture down that path as well. But it is far from fussy and makes for a stunning display outdoors. In the warmth of June in zone 8a, its white blossoms perfume the air to a degree that stunned me. I was not expecting such small and rather scant flowers to impart such noticeable fragrance. Star Jasmine has become one of my fast favorites.

star jasmine bloom

The vine is set amid a brick courtyard and frames a charming little gate.

secret garden arbor and gate

2) Plant Evergreens as much as Seasonal Flowers

Seasonal flowers die out or just go dormant for the winter, but evergreen plants, shrubs, trees, and vines are there for all seasons giving greenery, shape and variety of heights to the garden.

whimsical vine

The garden is both the seasonal blooms of the spring and summer and the hardy dignity of evergreen plants.

vine on garden arbor

3) Distribute Evergreens Amid the Seasonal Foliage

For every seasonal planting area that will disappear for the cold weather, plant evergreen items near/among it. I planted roses and hydrangeas in pots but I also planted camellias in pots which will be evergreen when those others go dormant. My plan is to not plant huge areas of just seasonal flowers since when it dies out, I will appreciate something evergreen to maintain the space.

rustic garden

4) Delineate Spaces with Hardscaping

A courtyard for an eating area, pathways for walking throughout a garden (or yard), or borders around garden beds can be of stone, brick, or rock. Consider what type of stone, brick, or rock is local to you and consider the aesthetic you are aiming to create as each type of hardscaping gives a unique look. Perhaps you can find free hardscaping where you live because a certain type is abundant. But definitely choose hardscaping materials that will pair well with your local climate. Consider how any material will age or require upkeep. Implement hardscaping by choosing the practical and beautiful for your area.

garden gate under arbor

5) “Decorate” in the garden

Hardscaping is wonderful for delineating spaces. But decor is also necessary outdoors! Benches, chairs, tables, fountains or bird baths are things that bring an inviting look and feel to a space for year-round beauty. If you use hardscaping such as pea gravel for an outdoor eating area, you definitely need to put a table and chairs set there! Enliven your garden with seating, fountains, bird baths, etc. that give the look and feel you are aiming to evoke.

garden gate

A note on winter gardens

I am already planning for when my potted roses need to be pruned down to sad stems, maybe even stored away in the garden barn for warmth. They will look terrible, a shadow of their former self but a necessary and natural form for wintertime. I plan to pot evergreen shrubs to stand in their place. A peek into the courtyard through the arbor will reveal a happy and very much not dormant evergreen shrub decked in white lights. I am also considering a few holly trees to pot which will display the quintessential red berries for winter, a perfectly lovely substitute for flowers. I’m even considering planting a proper outdoor Christmas tree to decorate it with lights!

When I look at my garden to design it, I see it as though it stands before me as it would look for all seasons to know what needs to be there for year-round beauty.

grow vine on arbor

While much of this property is far from photogenic, I have observed what makes this area a beautiful reprieve. To a large degree that is what gardening is…observation. Without it, you will have no direction. Gardeners must be observational. This is how you will know what will thrive where and what would look best where. But there is so much more to observing than just the technicalities of it. It is a rejoicing at seeing the majesty of God in the tiniest creatures, to the tender moments of a bird plucking a blueberry and feeding it to its mate. To be able to just be in the midst of the wonder that is so easily passed by and ignored day after day is a gift. These wonders are always happening whether we take time to see it or not. This is a gracious thing from the Lord, that it goes on whether we take notice or not. So that when we do stop to see, it’s there. A gift, waiting to be enjoyed.

Someday I might live in one place long enough to have the established garden on my dreams but until then I create what I can where I can and having solid direction always makes the garden get there faster for me to enjoy. All gardens start somewhere, and all gardens start with small seeds. Or one little corner in a tattered acre that was very well done.

romantic garden

Until next time, from my country home to wherever you are…hopefully near a garden.


"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things." Philippians 4:8 Blogging about country living, homemaking, fashion and decor tips with a penchant for all things princessy, Barbie

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