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Written by J.K. DePeal, Garden Writer   
Thursday, 17 January 2013 16:52

Colors, shapes, textures help create a winter garden

Well, here we are in the cold, doldrums of winter. The holidays are past and the changing of the years has come and gone. Resolutions firmly made on New Year’s Eve are possibly already beginning to weaken. So often it seems, as someone once quipped, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” But, how about making a resolution that will make next year more interesting in your yard or garden?

A garden without winter interest is just a garden in winter. But a garden with winter interest is a “winter garden.” Color, unusual shapes, textures, and forms in the winter give a yard or garden appeal and beauty. Since your yard is going to be lying there all winter anyway, you might as well bring it to life with interesting trees, shrubs and perennials, which have unique qualities that are at their best in the winter.

Picture yourself looking out at your yard on a bright, sunny, winter day. The ground is covered with a fresh layer of new-fallen snow. Against this white background, the red or yellow stems of a dogwood glow in a corner of the yard.

The peels of bark on your Paperbark Maple have trapped small pockets of snow that shine crystal-white against the golden-red brown of the tree. In another corner, a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick’s twisted, contorted branches are rimmed in white, making them look like a winter sculpture. And you can’t miss the bright, green boxwood hedge that edges your walk, now carpeted in white.

Regardless of the temperature or the weather, this yard sings with color, texture and form. Add to this the busy activity of winter birds and small animals and you have lots of “winter interest.”

There are a great variety of plants that can add beauty, charm, and interest to your garden. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, we our area falls in Hardiness Zone 6. Here are just a few:


Trees
Paperbark Maple, A. griseum – dark outer bark peels back to reveal golden, red-brown, inner bark (zones 4-8).

Flowering Cherry, Prunus serrula, has a peeling, reddish-brown, bark (zones 5-6).

Himalayan Birch, Betula utilis – coppery shags of bark peel to reveal lighter underbark (zones 5-7).

“Winter King” Hawthorn, Crataegus virdis – beautiful silver-tinged bark and orange-red berries in the winter (zones 5-6).

Many types of evergreens and weeping specimen trees add great winter color and form to any landscape.


Shrubs and Bushes
“Arctic Fire” Dogwood, C. sericea – thickly-stemmed and an intense red (zones 3-7).

“Flavirama” Dogwood, C. sericea, – bright yellow stems (zones 3-7).

Henry Lauder’s Walking Stick, Corylus contorta – displays bizarrely twisted, cork-screw like branches (zones 3-9).

Pyracantha, clusters of yellow, orange, or red fruits through the winter

American Cranberry, Viburnum trilobum – bright red fruits remain into late winter, (zones 4-6).

Wintercreeper, Euonymus fortunii “Coloratus” – bright purple-red leaf color through winter, (zones 5-6).

Corkscrew Rush, Juncus effuses “Spiralis” – dark green, round, twisted branches curl like Christmas ribbons, (zones 4-9).


Perennials
Coneflower, Echinacea – dried seedheads give form and texture in winter gardens, (3-10).

Candytuft, Iberis sempervirens – dark-green, glossy foliage provide color, texture, and cascading form through the winter and blooms in early spring, (3-9).

Dianthus, Dianthus plumaris, deltoides and gratianopolitanus – handsome, fine-textured, evergreen foliage (5-7).

Bearsfoot Hellebore, Helleborus foetidus produce apple-green, rose rimmed blooms in Jan. – Feb. (zones 3-8).

Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis – blooms with bright, deep-yellow, buttercup type blossoms in Feb. – March, (zones 5-6).

Grecian Windflower, Anemone, blooms in late winter.

Snowdrops, Galanthus, late winter to early spring blooms.


Ornamental Grasses
There are many available ornamental grasses that can be added to the landscape for winter texture, form, and sound. Try some of these plants to make your yard and garden more interesting next winter with unusual shapes and textures and warm, cheery colors. Adding winter interest is one resolution that all of us who garden can keep.

Many of the plants in this list can be found at local nurseries and garden centers or through mail order sources. Some websites to try are: whiteflowerfarm.com, www.waysidegardens.com, www.heronswood.com and www.millernurseries.com.

If you have garden questions or tips for other gardeners, send them in to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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