Posted on January 10, 2013 by Joyce Benson 1 Comment
Just because the sky is gloomy and grey, it doesn’t mean your garden can’t be a vibrant space that brightens your day. There are many wonderful native plants that can be used to create a stunning winter wonderland against a backdrop of fresh snow. The following plants will add great winter interest in color, texture and structure for your garden:
Keep in mind that you may find cultivars of some of these plants that offer different sizes, or other characteristics, than the ones listed below that perfectly suit your site.
Cornus sericea, Red Osier Dogwood. This deciduous plant offers four seasons of interest with bright red bark in winter, clusters of creamy white flowers in spring, tiny white berries (a songbird favorite) amongst a thicket of greenery in summer and purplish leaves in autumn. Height 6-12′. Grows in wet soils and is great for riparian areas. Stems can be used to make a nice red dye. Hardy to zone 3.
Ilex opaca, American Holly. This evergreen tree bears red fruit that many species of birds love. In order to get berries, your female holly needs a mate. An added bonus: A couple of sprigs from this tree can be used for holiday decoration, but be sure to consult a knowledgeable source for proper trimming/pruning techniques. Part shade to full sun (more berries in sun). Height to 45′, but very slow growing. Zone 5-9.
Ilex verticillata, Winterberry Holly. The bright red berries of this deciduous holly appear in late summer to fall and persist through most of the winter. This shrub provides a valuable food source and nesting site for birds. The nectar of its spring flowers is important to native bees. Be sure to have a male counterpart so your female plant will produce berries. Zones 3-9. Full sun to part shade. Size: 3-12′ x 3-12′.
Hamamelis virginiana, Witch Hazel. This late fall/early winter bloomer shows off unusual, strap-like yellow flowers that produce a spicy, citrus-like fragrance. The bright color really pops against a dark evergreen background. This multi-trunked tree/shrub typically grows to 15-30′ x 20-30′ in part shade, although it will tolerate full sun in moist soils. It is hardy to zone 3.
Betula nigra, River Birch. This easy-to-grow, deciduous tree offers beautiful, cinnamon-colored peeling bark year-round, but it’s especially noticeable in winter. This fast-growing multi-trunked tree thrives in medium-to-wet soils and is typically disease-resistant. Full sun to part shade. Zones 4-9, although they grow best in cool, northern climates. Size: 40-70′ tall x 40-60′ wide.
Mahonia aquifolium, Oregon Grapeholly. The glossy, spiny leaflets of this broadleaf evergreen turn a rich purplish-bronze color in fall and persist into winter. It offers a showy yellow bloom in spring. In summer, its little blue-black fruits resemble grape clusters and are edible too. This shrub grows in full sun to shade. Hardy to zone 5, or zone 4 in protected areas. Size: 3-6′ tall and wide.
Rhododendron ‘P.J.M.’ is another pretty purplish-leaved shrub in fall and winter, and it’s my favorite of all the rhododendrons. It offers a reliable showy display of lavendar-pink flowers in late spring. It prefers a rich, well-drained soil in partial shade and is appropriate for zones 4-7. Size: 3-6′ x 4-6′.
Yucca filamentosa, Adam’s Needle. This striking plant stays mostly green during the winter months and adds architectural interest to any garden. This drought-tolerant plant prefers full sun in zones 5-10. Size: 2-3′ high spiked clumps of foliage with creamy-white flower stalks to 6′ in spring!
Schizachyrium scoparium, Little Bluestem. This fine-textured graceful prairie grass may be named for its bluish stem bases in spring, but it’s the beautiful reddish-tan color that makes it stand out against wintry snow. It attracts birds and butterflies and provides important nesting materials for our native bees. This drought-tolerant grass grows well in sun to part shade. Zones 4-8. Size: 18-24″ x 1′.
Tag(s): Green Design, The Great Green Outdoors