winter! To avoid "bah, winter!" consider shrubs and
trees that look as good in the winter as they do during the growing
season. These are the real gems of the garden.
Some plants produce bright berries that
persist into the winter; some have dried flowers and seed pods; some
have unusual bark or stem color; some evergreens turn a different hue;
and other plants have an attractive sculptural form without their
leaves. Many hold the snow or ice in fantasy formation! Any
time is a great time to plant container-grown plants for winter
interest. You may be able to take advantage of a sale at a local
garden center that is clearing inventory in fall, and also after the
bloom season has passed for many different types of plants and shrubs.
Don't forget those constructed
"bones" we discussed in Bones of the
Garden. These also hold the snow and can produce a lovely
contrast against both snow and the dead grey-brown ground! Working
your constructed bones together with plants growing on or in front of
them will produce a good winter display to hearten you through the cold
Interesting Bark and Stems
Evergreen trees and shrubs with various
shades of greens and blues and interesting shapes are staples of many
winter landscapes. Deciduous trees with interesting bark characteristics
like paperbark maple or unusual branching habits like pagoda dogwood can
also aid in providing winter charm.
shiny, rich mahogany bark on Prunus maackii (shown - inset is summer
bloom), a member of the Manchurian cherry family, peels just like a
birch tree and glistens against the white of snow. Other
attributes of this extremely hardy (Zone 2) tree are its white flowers
in spring, yellow fall foliage, and small, black fruit. It's truly
a four-season plant!
The more common Cornus alba 'Sibirica'
(Red-twig dogwood) with red stems and Cornus stolenifera 'Flaviramea'
(Yellow-twig dogwood) with yellow stems also have very attractive twig
and stem color in winter. Choose an island planting or hedgerow
for these vigorous, large shrubs.
Flowering raspberry (Rubus biflorus),
with its chalk-white stems and yellow, edible berries, adds a ghostly
touch against a red brick wall.
gardeners passionately love weeping trees, and there are no better
architectural plants for winter appeal. Young's weeping birch has the
added bonus of white, peeling bark and dark brown stems and twigs that
cascade from the mushroom-shaped top to the ground.
Good choices for deciduous weepers
include camperdown elm (Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii'), weeping Siberian
pea (Caragana arborescens 'Pendula') and weeping purple beech (Fagus
sylvatica 'Purpurea Pendula').
For sculptural specimens with
corkscrewlike branches, there are none better than Corylus avellana
'Contorta' (Harry Lauder's walking stick) and Salix x erythroflexuosa
(corkscrew willow), with pendulous, twisted, orange-yellow stems.
classic winter garden features fruit in many colors: red, orange,
yellow, blue, black, and white. Not only is such a composition
visually attractive, but it will draw furry and feathered guests to
feast. Pyracantha coccinea (firethorn - shown) with red
(P.c. 'Watereri'), yellow, (P.c. 'Shawnee'), or bright orange (P.c.
'Lalandei') berries can be grown as a shrub or pruned and trained into
an espalier or bonsai specimen. For huge clusters of red fruit,
Ilex verticillata 'Sparkleberry' (winterberry) is unmatched, but it
needs a pollinator to produce (try I. 'Apollo').
The tiny, abundant, persistent, hanging
crabapples on sargent crab (Malus sargentii) enhance the very horizontal
branching habit of this dwarf, sculptural tree. The yellow fruit
on Viburnum dilatatum 'Xanthocarpum' is unusual, with berries that fade
to a salmon shade in winter, and Viburnum trilobum 'Alfredo' lives up to
its common name, cranberry bush, by sporting large, shiny clusters of
edible, bright-red berries, perfect for jams and jellies. For more
ideas on berry producing plants, check out Fall
Flowers to Grow.
Dried Flowers and Seed Heads
ornamental grasses are grown
specifically for their attractive seedheads in the winter. Any
perennial border or foundation planting would benefit from the addition
of ornamental grasses, as they provide striking autumn wheat color and
wispy, feathery dried flowers that hang on through winter. Try to
keep these far enough out from the house to avoid the eaves.
Miscanthus flowers look like miniature witches' brooms, and pampas grass
(Cortaderia selloana) like plumes moving in the breeze. Pennisetum
flowers are bottlebrush-shaped and Festuca flowers are loose and
spiky. You'll find as many sizes and cultivars of grasses as
flower types, but beware of hardiness zones, avoid those that can be
invasive, and choose appropriately for your planting location.
bronze-green leaves of Rhododendron 'PJM' (shown) turn reddish
purple in the fall and hold their color through the winter.
Small-leafed and hardy to Zone 4, 'PJM' has bright pink flowers in the
spring and remains compact and upright even into old age.Many herbaceous
perennials also have interesting fall and winter appeal.
Foliage like bergenia turns maroon with
the onset of cold temperatures. The foliage of grape-hyacinth emerges
late in the season and persists through winter. Perennials like Achillea
overwinter with a rosette of foliage close to the ground. Lavender,
sage, thyme and other herbs hold their foliage late in the season. Yucca
plants possess a unique character especially after a snowfall.
The leaves of many junipers become a
lovely plum-purple color when cold weather sets in, and evergreens with
year-round yellow foliage, such as Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera
Aurea,' can be striking focal points in the winter garden.
for Winter Gardens
with Winter Interest
with Winter Interest
|European Wild Ginger
|Spotted Dead Nettle
|Autumn Joy sedum
||Sedum x 'Autumn
|Feather Reed Grass
||Calamagrostis x acutiflora
|Fall Blooming Reed Grass
|Small Japanese Silver Grass
|Chinese Silver Grass
||Miscanthus sinensis 'Siberfedher'
||Molinia caerulea (all cultivars)
|Red Switch Grass
||Panicum virgatum 'Haense Herms',
|Variegated Cord Grass
with Winter Interest
|Marginal Shield Fern
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