Barefoot Contessa star Ina Garten's low-effort winter garden is a cold-weather wonderland thanks to this unsung hero

In the winter, when herbaceous perennials disappear underground and deciduous plants shed their leaves, evergreens come to the fore

Ina Garten
(Image credit: Getty Images / Manny Carabel / Contributor)

Evergreen plants are the unsung heroes of a winter garden, strong and silent but with a presence that is felt every day of the year. 

Their contribution to a garden's framework is invaluable, either as clipped topiaries, hedges, trees, or leafy bushes that give structure to beds and borders, patios, and container gardens.

Evergreen shrubs work hard to earn their place in every garden, adding interest and structure to your winter garden ideas. Even better, they tend to be low-maintenance. Some add color with blooms and berries, too, while others are scented, so they bring far more than just year-round, good-looking foliage. They can bring a welcome dose of color and structure into your winter garden. And there are plenty of options to choose from if you want to replicate Ina Garten's backyard.

We need strong planting in winter to give us our daily dose of green to calm our minds and to give our front and backyards a good structure that will contrast with the pared-back stems of deciduous shrubs and trees. 

Landscaping with evergreens can help punctuate our borders and patios, and lead our eyes away from bare winter soil and spent flowerbeds. Hedges can work as a backdrop to winter-flowering shrubs and early bulbs, and winter foliage can come in many shades from darkest black through green to bronze.

Topiary is a wonderful option if you wish to add year-round interest. 'Often referred to as the bones of the garden, the evergreen structure should be the starting point once the initial layout has been decided,' says Lee Bestall, Bestall & Co.

These clipped evergreens are perfect for creating a punctuation point in your planting scheme, introducing low shapes to edge paths, and adding definition to containers. Choose lollipop bay trees, smart box balls, and pompom conifers to add strong shapes that help to define spaces. Topiary is also low-maintenance and looks good all year round.

Another way to add wintery interest is by designing a parterre garden. While they have a history dating back hundreds of years, parterre gardens work well in contemporary settings, too.

Distinguished by their ornamental pattern of symmetrical beds traditionally enclosed and formed by low evergreen clipped hedges, parterres were intended to be viewed and appreciated from above as well as at garden level. 

The pattern is its most striking feature, and from historic, embroidery-inspired, and intricately fluid designs interlaced with stone or gravel pathways, to more modern geometric flower beds arranged in a formal layout within a lawn or paved area, there are many interpretations of a parterre for small courtyard gardens to expansive country plots, similar to Ina Garten's.

Initially a showcase for horticultural skill and taste at their height of fashion in the 17th century, parterres can equally be accommodated within a contemporary garden.

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.