• Winter Interest in the Landscape

  • A critical element in landscape design is creating winter interest, typically accomplished with evergreens.  Fortunately, stimulating alternatives are available.

    Most homes have a sufficient supply of yew, juniper and boxwood, but my preferred evergreen for cold weather intrigue has to be the Princess Holly.  Her blue – green glossy, serrated foliage provides a vibrant contrast for its orange berries.  Most holly performs best in the protected environment of the north or east side of your home.  Prevailing winter winds and direct summer sun often scald the leaves, leaving them unsightly.  Female holly needs a buddy to produce berries, so confirm that a male (prince) holly exists in your landscape for every 6 females or so.  Tired guys!


    If your prefer something a little more dramatic for winter interest, introduce a series of these:

    • Ornamental grasses turn a marvelous toasty color, provide movement and stark contrast against frost or snow.  Every landscape deserves a few of these.
    • Yellow and Red Twigged Dogwood shrubs planted in mass or as a specimen, give great winter stem color, as the name implies.  Allow room for plenty of growth and cut to the ground every few years to maintain stem color.
    • Big Blue Liriope (not spicata, an aggressive spreader), a 12” tall semi evergreen perennial and member of the Lilly family, can highlight festive bed lines and often maintains bold black berries into the winter.
    • Consider Bayberry, Inkberry and Lenten rose.
    • Most homes will support a majestic blue spruce, even if it’s a dwarf variety
    • Never underestimate the unique branching structure of clump ornamental trees (Serviceberry, Kousa Dogwood, Redbuds) and those with peculiar textured bark (Birch, Beech, Sycamore, Paper Bark Maples, Japanese Maples).  FAVORITE…the Winterking Hawthorne, aptly named for the profuse orange berries that persist into February, peeling bark and pesky thorns.
    • Boulder clusters, dry creek beds and large curvilinear bed lines offer some interest.
    • Erect seed heads of coneflower, sedum and hydrangea can look pretty cool too, or messy, depending on your perspective.

    Relying on evergreens completely for winter interest may work, but adding some variety will often produce a more intriguing palate.  In the next few weeks, perform a quick inspection and note any necessary 2010 landscape adjustments.