Finding Winter Beauty In Gardens

By Cecilia A. Palmer

Winter is a time of rest for the garden with most plants spending this time dormant and resting for the growing season to come.  Even so, there are many plants which bring interest and beauty to the winter landscape.  Evergreen foliage adds color and texture, winter flowering gems bring us flowers and fragrance and the bark of some plants can create a lot of interest.  Here are a few winter treasures capturing the eye on a January walk through Green Springs Garden.

Great Plants for Winter Beauty

Mahonia x media 'Underway'The Mahonia species are winter flowering shrubs that bring a lot of interest to the winter garden.  Commonly known as Oregon Grape Holly, these shrubs have striking evergreen foliage and bright yellow flowers during the winter.

There are many types of Mahonia.  The variety pictured is Mahonia x media ‘Underway’. It flowers in late December through January with fragrant bright yellow flowers.  The foliage is more delicately textured than the more commonly seen Mahonia bealei.  The shrubs grow somewhat slowly, but, can reach 8′ or more in height.  This is a great choice for a shady north side of a home and in the woodland garden.Red Twig Dogwood

                           Colorful Branches

Young branches of Red Twig Dogwoods are particularly attractive in the winter months.  The planting pictured features the appropriately named ‘Midwinter Fire’ Red Twig Dogwood.  The bright colored stems glow particularly well when they are placed where they capture the low winter afternoon sunlight.  The addition of evergreen plantings accentuates the bright stem color.    See our blog post “Plants We Love – Red Twig Dogwood”  for more pictures and ways to use this plant.

Willowleaf AmsoniaSummers Glory

The summer perennial garden can add a subtle interest and depth to the landscape if the dried foliage and flowers are left standing for the winter.  Many perennials and ornamental grasses have seedheads and foliage which are attractive during the winter months. It is also an easy way to feed the birds as they feast on the seeds throughout the winter. The Willowleaf Amsonia foliage is featured to the left and is a fantastic perennial bringing interest to the garden throughout the year.  It has soft ice blue flowers in spring, soft green foliage in summer and brilliant yellow, orange foliage in the fall.

Euphorbia myrsinites

How striking is this!

The icy blue foliage on this plant catches attention in a rock garden setting.  This is Euphorbia myrsinites a low growing Spurge.  It has outstanding foliage along with deer and drought resistance.  It must have well drained soils and does not like soils that stay wet in the winter.

                                         Snow Fun!

Galanthus elwesiiA winter garden would not be complete without these charming little bulbs.  These are Snowdrops – Galanthus elwesii and are one of the earlier flowering types of snowdrops.  A collection of snowdrops will give color and interest to the winter garden throughout much of the winter.  Easy to grow and quite rewarding wherever they are used.

Their delicate beauty, fragrance and flowering time have captured the hearts of many people.  Galanthophiles,  people obsessed with Snowdrops, have bred and cultivated hundreds, if not, thousands of selections.  The greatest majority of these are more commonly found “across the pond”.

While this winter has been colder and snowier than most, there are still many plants of interest in the garden.  Milder winters will offer more flowers from plants such as Hellebore, Aconites, Chimonanthus, and Witchhazels.  There are evergreen perennials and ferns which will keep their foliage fresh during the winter.  Using some of these plants in your garden helps make it an enjoyable space throughout the seasons.