Winter Gardens – During the grey and cold days of winter, our gardens lack the vibrant colors and intoxicating scents of the other seasons.
However, if you have paid attention to the basic definition of your landscaping, winter is the time when silhouettes of bushes and trees and dried seed heads or bright winter berries come into play. Woody plants with beautiful bark and interesting architectural structure can form the backbone of your winter garden.
Evergreens with colorful foliage throughout the year come into their own in winter, when there is no competition from green deciduous leaves and bright flowering plants. Golden Hinoki cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Aurea’, reveals golden new growth. Several varieties of juniper add colors ranging from a rose-purple cast to silvery blue foliage. Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, has broad green-purple to bright red leaves that can light up the winter landscape.
Many gardeners choose evergreens to add color and texture all year long, but if you deliberately choose deciduous plantings to complement your landscape, the patterns of their branches will enhance your garden in this barest season.
One of the best of these is the corkscrew hazel, Corylus avellana. This Medusa head of contorted branches and coiling stems can grow up to ten feet. Coming in a close second is the dragon-claw willow, Salix babylonica, with its graceful spiralling branches. Another shrub with attractively contorted yellowish brown twigs is Harry Lauder’s walking stick, Corylus contorta.
Other trees and shrubs show interestingly textured and often colorful bark once the leaves have fallen. The peeling cinnamon skin of the paperbark maple or the bright red shoots of the red osier dogwood add color and texture to the monochromatic winter landscape. Golden weeping willow, Salix x chrysocoma, adds a bright golden glow to the winter landscape that is hidden in summer. For a touch of bright color, plant a birch bark cherry, Prunus serrula, and enjoy its bronze-red bark.
Another way to add color to the winter landscape is to plant shrubs and trees that sport winter berries. Not only do these add bright dots of interest, they attract winter birds, which further enliven the garden. Cotoneaster brightens up walls and hedges with its bunches of red or orange berries while wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens, can cover the bare brown earth with its evergreen leaves and small red berries.
Perhaps you have species of crabapples in your yard. Unpicked, the small purplish fruits will last throughout the winter, feeding birds and adding even more drama to the yard.
Don’t forget winter flowering perennials, like hardy cyclamen, with bright mauve blossoms or hellebores, snowdrops and yellow or purple winter blooming crocus. Many of these bloom in either late fall, with winter foliage, or in late winter, pushing flowers up through brown earth or patches of snow.
Others, like heuchera with evergreen bronze foliage or berengia with its leathery green leaves, can add color and texture in the understory of your winter garden throughout the year.
So don’t give up on your gardens during the winter.
Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’
Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus contorta)