Plants for Winter Interest
As we go into the winter months, our beautiful landscapes usually gets buried under mountains of white fluffy snow. The leaves are gone from our favorite shrubs, no more pretty flowers to look at, bare branches wave at us from our tall majestic trees.
We can be saved from total winter doldrums by inserting into our landscape certain plants that have winter charm. Whether its colorful branches, bright berries, or evergreen needles, any bit of color we can add helps to brighten an otherwise dreary scene.
For colorful branches, we have two wonderful shrubs that help to brighten the winter landscape. Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus), and its many varieties, are best known for their bright red winter stems while Yellow twig Dogwood is known for its bright yellow branches. While they both lose their leaves in the fall, their branches stand out nice and bright against the snow with much appreciated color. Both of these shrubs have varieties that are deer resistant.
There are also trees with wonderful, distinctive bark that provide great interest in the winter months. Some examples of these would be European White Birch, with its white peeling bark, or Heritage River Birch, with its cinnamon-colored peeling bark.
There are many shrubs that produce berries that persist throughout the winter months and provide wonderful landscape interest.
- Cotoneasters are small, spreading evergreen and deciduous shrubs that produce small red berries in the fall (and flowers in the spring). There are groundcover varieties as well as varieties used for small hedges. They are also deer resistant.
- The many varieties of Holly available make it easy to fit them into our landscapes. They come in many sizes and shapes and are hardy in our cold northeast climate. If we include the varieties of Mahonia along with Ilex, the berries can be found ranging in color from white to yellow to red to blue. Most hollies retain their leaves in the winter but not all are deer resistant, so be selective when choosing a variety.
- Pyracantha is another shrub with a beautiful profusion of berries in the winter. It’s a wonderful, large evergreen shrub with different varieties that produce orange or red berries. It’s also grown as a colorful espalier on a trellis. Its common name is Firethorn, aptly named because of its sharp thorns, but which are somewhat hidden because of its dense growing habit. Its thorns though help to make it quite deer resistant!
- Viburnum also has many varieties, some evergreen, many deciduous, with wonderful fruiting habits. The fruit ranges from the bright red of Cranberry Bush Viburnum to Brandywine Viburnum which has pink and blue berries on the same shrub to many other varieties which have various shades of blue berries. When choosing a variety of Viburnum, you need to check for deer resistance as it varies from shrub to shrub.
Other choices for winter berries include:
- Barberry (Berberis sp.) – red or bluish
- Buckthorn (Rhamnus sp.) – black
- Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) – red or orange
- Juniper, Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus sp.) – blue
- Roses (Rosa sp.) – red “hips”
- Serviceberry (Amelianchier sp.) – blue or red
Lastly, I always love to include evergreens in landscapes for their everlasting beauty. No matter what season it is, their lustrous branches lend beauty to our landscape beds. Evergreens come in various colors so our winter landscapes can be highlighted by their green, blue, grayish or golden hues.
Even covered in snow, as the photo above portrays, evergreen branches carry their burden of snow with delicacy and grace.