From Impressionism to Art Nouveau – | Your North East

From Impressionism to Art Nouveau –

The quality of light is key in the next few art movements, from the way light filters through the leaves creating pockets of light and shade, to the way its reflects against the snow.


Impressionism is all about the changes in light, from dawn to dusk and grey wet days to sunlight fields and beaches and the way it plays out against different materials, giving them an almost ‘other’ quality. For Christmas the theme revolves around the effect light can have on the colours of snow, from pure white, the pink light that falls on it as the sun is setting, the blues and purples on a dark day and the green from the reflection of evergreen foliage.

Snow sprinkled ivy

Snow sprinkled ivy

Shades of white are often found in winter from the bare-leaved branches of birch, one of my favourite trees whether enjoying the taller Betula utiliis or the multi-stemmed version in smaller spaces. Under planted with the white of Helleborus niger and Cyclamen coum subsp. coum f. pallidum ‘Album’ or with a small brush of purple, perhaps Helleborus orientalis ‘Blue Lady’ (it starts flowering around January) although there are a lot of stunning purple varieties. There are plenty of pretty pink hellebores including the delicate Helleborus × ericsmithii ‘Pirouette’ and of course cyclamen too.The winter honeysuckle (Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’) has delicate white bell-shaped flowers on bare branches, it has a fantastic scent and in smaller spaces works well trained against a wall.

Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty'

Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’

Post Impressionism

Post Impressionism is a more abstract movement (Gaugin, Cezanne and Van Gogh) and also more decadent, think sumptuous velvets in deep greens and oranges with splashes of blues and reds. It all about using the plants as paint.

There are plenty of deep green evergreen shrubs around in December but with added scent in the form of tiny white flowers you can’t beat Christmas box. These are well worth planting near a path or in pots to make the most of the scent, whether choosing Sarcococca confusa or for an additional colour the Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna ‘Purple Stem’ or the smaller ‘Winter Gem’. There are a range of oranges from stem colours to flowers mentioned in the blog on Art Movements from Renaissance to Bloomsbury. 

Sarcococca confusa

Sarcococca confusa

To add in a splash of red there are hellebores or use berries, Skimmia japonica ‘Nymans’ is a low mound forming shrub with red berries or Rubella for red flowers, ideal in smaller spaces and a change from the traditional holly.

Snow covered berries

Snow covered berries

Art Nouveau

It’s the architecture for me that really stands out within the Art Nouveau movement, the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Glasgow School of Art and the spires of Gaudi’s cathedral in Barcelona. Not to mention one of my favourite designers, the beautiful Scandinavian elegance of Georg Jensen homeware and jewellery. The colours in this theme are blues, not colours that are found in winter and metallics.

Christmas at Tivoli, Copenhagen

Christmas at Tivoli, Copenhagen

Shades of gold aren’t colours typically associated with plants (even those with gold in their name are shades of bright yellow) but to add a glittery element leave the seed heads on grasses and perennials like Phlomisto capture the winter frost and watch them twinkle in the winter light.  Adding lighting will also make the garden sparkle, uplighters will highlight a focal point, a favourite tree or piece of sculpture or scattered amongst the borders will add a diffuse glow to the plants. Strings of outdoor lights will give that Christmas feeling, wrapped round the bare bones of a large shrub or deciduous tree or around topiary at the entrance to a house or garden.

About the Author

Camilla Grayley is a garden designer based in York, mainly working in and around Yorkshire but has travelled up and down the UK to design gardens and is always happy to travel to help clients with their gardens. I love creating gardens with strong architectural outlines softened by voluminous planting that draws on year round interest, ensuring there is something to capture the eye whatever the season. Gardens should always evoke all the senses from the colour palette on the eye, to the rustling of plants swaying in the wind to the amazing perfumes that can be inhaled, whether on a summer’s evening or the depth of winter.


If you would like to know more working with me please feel free to have a look at my Garden Design and Garden Consultancy Services  or contact me.


2020-12-04 16:04:07.

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