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Reading an article about winter is probably the last thing you want to do on days when it's in the 40's and feeling like spring. But before we leave winter completely behind us, have you really looked at your yard when covered in snow? Is winter interesting when you look out your window? This is when we see the bones of our landscape - trees, shrubs, sturdy stems of perennials, statuary , and hardscapes - all provide structure and interest.
Leave a few perennials standing for the winter. Take this 'Autumn Joy' Sedum above. It's an unassuming, overused perennial, but these stems have held up under 8+ inches of wet, heavy snow more than once. At one point they looked like strange mushrooms found in a woodland. If they had been trimmed back in the fall, this spot would have not been as interesting to look at.
A fresh snow brings the landscape to life. Statuary and other garden ornamentation can add character and charm to a rather bland palette. In the photo above, taken a couple snowfalls ago, a lilac and hydrangeas dance around a young birch while a statue of Hebe watches in the background. The heart filigree in the wrought iron fence offers it's own beauty to the winterscape.
Combining perennials with conifers and small, ornamental trees is guaranteed to look captivating through the changing seasons. Low-growing evergreens, like this Juniper, are often ignored when designing an area. They are easy to walk right by at the garden center, but look how great the green needles look dusted with snow in the photo above. Here it is planted near a Coral Bark Japanese Maple whose fall leaves are still clinging on making it an even prettier picture. Rocks that edge a bed of Lenten roses (Helleborus) mark a compelling pathway.
If you just can't bring yourself to add evergreens into your landscape, then consider broadleaf varieties. Holly (Ilex) ,shown above, and boxwoods, shown below, are two ways to add year-round green and provide living structure. And no need to prune them unless you want to! Boxwoods on this property are rarely pruned unless a branch gets overly rambunctious and throws off the overall look of the plant.
When choosing trees to bring into your plant communities, consider what they have to offer during the winter months. The gnarly branches of the Harry Lauder Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta'), in the photo below, are at the top of my list as is the bark of birch trees and Seven Sons tree (Heptacodium miconioides ).
Winter will give us another fresh blanket or two of white before letting Spring have her way. Seize the opportunity to look at your landscape with a critical eye and find ways to increase Winter's interest. Taking a photo of an area can help see more objectively and you'll notice more details. If you need ideas and suggestions, bring your photo in to us here at Burlington Garden Center and take advantage of our landscape design service. We're here to help make your gardens the best they can be - even in winter.
Horticulturist and General Manager of Burlington Garden Center