Plants that are interesting in the
 winter landscape

Dawne Howard
Frederick County Master Gardener Program

The fourth season can indeed be interesting and fun to plan. Many of us only plan our landscapes for the bloom times; spring and summer but there are many interesting winter cultivars for the landscape.

Many gardeners think of winter as a down time. Nothing happening, flowers are gone, leaves have fallen and evergreens huddle against the cold. Even as blizzards rage and cold winds lash the landscape, many other things are going on below the ground. Early bulbs are swelling and putting out their first shoots. Perennials aided by the cold are undergoing chemical changes that will equip them for the new growth cycle. Seeds are similarly reacting to the cold and getting ready to sprout.

Above ground, winter is a time of special beauty. Berries sparkle on shrubs, while others have burnished bronze appearances. The leafless branches of trees cast shadows across the freshly fallen snow in the rays of the late afternoon sun. The bark hidden by the leaves of summer comes into its own in the winter. Barks of silvery gray, white, green, deeply fissured, sleek as a seal or curiously pocked by a peeling surface give interest to a wonderful winter landscape if we but just look. Color is everywhere. The winter stems of some young dogwoods are bright red, others are yellow, purple or green. The wheat gold of dried grasses stands out in bright contrast against the backdrop of dark evergreens. There is even the surprising yellow of ribbon-like witch-hazel flowers which bloom in midwinter or the delicate lavenders and blues of tiny species of crocuses under the January snow. Pansies are great bonuses for winter color.

Plants themselves, with their varied colors and textures give life and harmony to the garden. Evergreens come in many colors; green, purple and silvery gray. They are also selected for the way their branches catch and hold the snow.

You might want to check on a few of these plants to answer your landscape needs.

  • Paperbark Maple (Acer grisium)
  • Threadleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum disssectum)
  • Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifalia)
  • Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)
  • Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica "Glauca")
  • Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus avellana "Contorta")
  • Winter Dephne (Daphne odora) Fragrant
  • Common Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) Tastes like Tea-berry
  • Christmas Rose (Heleboris niger)
  • Chinese witch-hazel (Hamamelis mollis)
  • Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) Need female and male plant
  • Christmas fern (Polystichun acrostichoides)
  • Common Camellia (Camellia japonica)
  • Heathers/Heaths

There are still thousands of other plants to look at for landscape winter interest . Don't forget the grasses and other small rock garden plants.

As you take a winter stroll to help with the cabin fever, look around and you'll be surprised at all of the color and interest of the landscape .Go to some of the public areas such as parks for ideas and check out native areas as well for ideas.

When inquiring or purchasing plants, make sure the plants fit the location, soil type, height and maturity for the purpose you are looking for. Winter winds and sun are very hard on plants. Some plants need a lot of shelter and others tolerate open areas. Do your research before you buy to insure your plantings will be around for many years and not just the first growing season.

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