Winter Choices for Landscaping

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Most gardeners who live in cold climates just pack up for winter and head inside. Watching the landscape through a window, they see stretches of snow covered ground, dead stalks and a few hardy evergreens. Not a bad view, actually!

But for the truly adventurous there are many choices of shrub or tree that can help brighten even those gloomy winter scenes, inside and out.

Holly has been popular around Christmas for centuries. With year-round foliage and colorful berries, it will bring life and color into your life. The bush tolerates cutting even in the dead of winter, so you can prune a few to hang on the door, or make a nice decoration for the dinner table.

China Holly is a delightful variation. Rounded and about 8 foot high, they’re drought tolerant and just beautiful. Inkberry Holly is a nice choice, too. It’s shorter and the black berries make for an interesting difference from the usual type. Winterberry Holly is a good choice if you want to attract those few bird species that hang around during the cold months.

Birch trees add an artistic touch to the landscape and can be used as lining around your property or as a centerpiece in the lawn. Since they’re deciduous they lose their leaves in the late Fall, but the subtle coloring of the wood and the shape of the branches make them natural sculpture.

Paper Birch has bark that makes an interesting appearance, as it sheds and folds. A variety known as Yellow Birch is a colorful type. Young’s Weeping Birch grows only to six to twelve feet, making it a wonderful shorter version. Most birch trees can grow 60 feet or more over a period of decades.

Yew trees have long been associated with the Christmas season in Great Britain, but can be grown in many countries. Their evergreen needles and bright red berries provide a nice bit of color during winter. Be sure not to eat the berries, which are poisonous.

Several Japanese species have evolved in the windswept areas and form lovely additions to the home. The Japanese Barberry is a roundish shrub that does well in certain parts of the country. They’re hardy up to Zone 3. A few feet high and wide, they produce lovely Fall colors and the berries will last until very late into the season.

The American version will thrive in Zones 2-8 and its fruit is a favorite of birds. They’re also deer resistant, so if you live in an area they frequent you get two benefits in one bush. During the other seasons you might enjoy the fragrant foliage.

Complete the picture with a tall grass that can add to the scene in winter. Plume grass is an ornamental and will last all year round in Zones 4-9. With a thin shaft and puffy top, you’ll enjoy seeing them against the background.

Don’t let winter stop you from enjoying your green thumb. Pick some winter plants today.


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