Winter Interest in the Garden

Snow topped pine and spruce brings out the blue green color of the needlesWinter gardening in the Northeast can be quite interesting. You might be surprised how enjoyable and beautiful this season can be.

Some highlights during winter include:

EVERGREENS: They stand out this time of year without competition from flowering trees and shrubs. My favorites species are all types of  Holly, Evergreen Magnolia, Cypress and Blue Spruce. Hollies are a deep, shiny green and some have red berries which are great for birds. Variegated English Holly is used as a specimen with the white variegation highlighting any garden space. Interesting structural forms pop when combined with blue-green or yellow foliage on different cultivars of Hinoki Cypress. Anything blue toned like the Colorado or Dwarf Montgomery Spruce is a welcome sight in the winter. I also use cuttings from these for winter decoration in my garden pots and urns or even in a vase indoors.

Skimmia, bright with red berries in the snow covered landscapeFLOWER COLOR: There are several options for winter blooms. ‘Arnold Promise’ Witch Hazel blooms mid February with fragrant yellow flowers. Lenten Rose (hellebore) is a perennial that blooms in early March and Snow Drops are bulbs that bloom in late February. Heather is evergreen and can start blooming in November right through to early March. The best thing about these plants is that they bloom anywhere from one to three months and are all deer resistant.

 

 

Beautiful closeup of the exfoliating bark on a Paperbark MapleBRANCH COLOR: Try the Red Twig Dogwood, a medium sized deciduous shrub. Their summer appearance is not striking but when is snows the red stems will catch any ones attention. There is also a yellow variety. Important Tip: Prune older brown branches down to the base in the spring to encourage new growth. This new growth will start out a light red and intensify as the season progresses. For the late fall/early winter use deciduous Winterberry. It will give a spectacular show of color with red berries, great for the wildlife. Other plants with attractive berries for the wildlife are Viburnum, Sumac and Bayberry which are all native to our region.

DECORATIVE BARK: Once trees lose their leaves for the winter, their interesting structure and bark is more noticeable. Textures range from the exfoliating bark of River Birch, the cinnamon color and exfoliating bark of Crape Myrtle to the the mottled bark of a mature Sycamore, Dogwood or Stewartia to the smooth, gray bark of a Beech tree. Branching habits are visible on the Contorted Filbert, also known as Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, or the Corkscrew Willow with its curly, twisting branches. These are great to cut and bring indoors for floral arrangements or to use as a support for other indoor plants.

The winter can be full of garden delights.

Written by Rick Schneider

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