Gardens should have four seasons of interest. A lot of emphasis is placed on spring and summer. Even fall can be beautiful by picking trees and shrubs with fall color. What about winter, you may say? Winter interest can be added to the home landscape in many ways by using plants with winter berries, exfoliating bark, colorful twigs, and even winter flowers.
Plants with winter berries provide a colorful addition to your winter garden, and much-needed food for wildlife, especially birds. If you are the crafty type, berries add interest to fall and winter flower arrangements!
One of the most familiar plants with berries is the holly. There are many different species, ranging greatly in size. My favorite is the Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata), one of the deciduous hollies. The leaves shed in the fall to reveal a magnificent display of brilliant-red berries. This species will need a non-bearing male plant to produce berries.
Deciduous trees with attractive bark can be beautiful year-round. Some bark exfoliates exposing colorful layers of bark underneath and creating unique patterns.
Examples of trees with exfoliating bark include some cultivars of crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’ and L. indica ‘Apalachee’), Heritage river birch (Betula nigra ‘Heritage’), kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia), and paperbark maple (Acer griseum).
There are even plants that flower in the winter and very early spring. My favorite is the witchhazel. Two common species are the native witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana), a yellow-flowered, fall-blooming species, and the vernal witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis), a yellow-, orange-, or red-flowered, winter-blooming species. Both are stunning if set in front of an evergreen shrub or tree to highlight the flowers.
Other winter-flowering plants include winter daphne (Daphne odora), which has extremely fragrant blossoms, Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis), wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), and buttercup winterhazel (Corylopsis pauciflora).
With a little planning, you can incorporate a variety of trees, shrubs, and perennials into your landscape to create a stunning garden with interest in all four seasons.
Featured image – Winter Daphne / JC Raulston Arboretum
Stephanie Romelczyk is a Horticulture Agent.