Many plants offer ornamental features all the way through winter, adding color and texture when we most crave them. Pick plants with interesting foliage, bark, berries, seeds, and more to combat the doldrums. Here are some of our favorite plants for winter interest.
Evergreens are beautiful year round, but gardeners most appreciate them in the winter when soft, colorful foliage is harder to come by. Look to Pines, Spruces, Firs, False Cypress, and Junipers. Don’t have a lot of room for trees? Use compact or dwarf varieties like ‘Mugo’ Pines or ‘Bird’s Nest’ Spruces.
Evergreens also include some plants that may surprise you: Boxwoods, Andromedas, Mountain Laurels, Cotoneasters, Holly, Yew, and even some Azalea and Rhododendrons.
Many ground covers and perennials are evergreen as well: Heuchera, Creeping Myrtle (Vinca), Pachysandra, ‘Angelina’ Stonecrop, Candytuft, Lavender, Bigroot Geranium, Euonymous, English Ivy, and Bugleweed.
Plant Red or Yellow Twig Dogwoods to be seen from a window and you’ll rejoice at the sight of them daily. While these plants feature spring blossoms, beautiful (often variegated) foliage, and wonderful berries in autumn, they are most valued for their colorful stems, which take on bright red or gold as temperatures dip. When backdropped by white snow – they are simply magnificent. The cut twigs are also excellent additions to winter containers.
Some forms of Blueberries have red stems through the winter as well!
Colorful, peeling, or exfoliating bark can add a wonderful element of texture. Paperbark Maples, Chinese Elms, Cherries, Stewartias, Parrotias, and River Birches are just some of the wonderful options for New Englanders.
Gold and Red Winterberries are one of the absolute best plants for winter interest. They are native to New England, and lose their leaves each autumn, leaving thousands of brightly colored berries clinging to every stem. Berries persist through winter, and branches can be pruned off for wreathes and bouquets.
Crabapples boast beautiful spring flowers, colorful fall foliage, and bright berries through winter. A great source of foods for birds, Crabapple berries can be found in reds, yellows, and oranges.
DRIED PETALS OR SEEDS
Many varieties of Arborescens, Paniculate, or Oakleaf Hydrangea retain their dried flower heads all the way through winter. These flowers often keep their raspberry hues, and give the impression of a blooming shrub despite the plant’s dormancy.
Ornamental grasses are not to be underestimated for their winter value. They keep their feathery plumes, and continue to sway in the breeze, catch the light with their warm, honeyed tones, and provide a fantastic focal point. An added bonus: they provide excellent food and shelter for birds, animals, and insects.
Many plants feature large dried seeds that give the plant a bejeweled appearance once all the leaves have dropped. Stewartia and Magnolia are great
examples. Both develop dried seeds that give them a bejeweled look as they lay dormant through
winter. ‘Seven Sons’ Heptacodium has wonderful raspberry color bracts that persist after white petals have dropped from the flowers, providing a nice prolonged show through winter.
Other seed containers like cones, nuts, bracts, pods, and pussywillows also provide wonderful bits of detail on trees, shrubs, and perennials.
VERY EARLY SPRING BULBS
Layer in some early blooming spring bulbs like Snowdrops, Winter Aconite, and Crocus to
welcome in the earliest signs of spring.
By choose plants for winter interest, you can enjoy your garden year round, and give yourself a consistent show of beauty through even the dreariest winters. Enjoy!