Plants for Winter Interest
The winter landscape, to some this may sound like an oxymoron. Here in the Pacific Northwest where the cool temperatures and rain keep us inside during the months of January and February gardening seems like a chore meant for another more forgivable time. That said, through the grey there are some plants to remind us that spring and warmer more enjoyable weather is not far away.
A favorite winter interest plant is Variegated Winter Daphne. It blooms in winter to early spring. When doing so it gives off a lovely fragrance. Placing this plant near an entrance makes coming and going that much more enjoyable. Despite the drab winter sky the sweet smells of this plant are sure to brighten your day. Variegated Winter Daphne prefers moist soil and I have found that this plant work very well in or around a rain garden and does take on a naturalized appearance to some degree. It is an evergreen plant and prefers a mix of sun and shade. Dappled sunlight is probably the best way to sum up where this plant will be happiest.
Photo courtest of fastgrowingtrees.com
Another plant that stands out in the winter months is Winterberry Holly. Like the name states the bright red berries are the attributes most prominent for this deciduous shrub. It is important to note that the berries will be best if there is a male planted near by. These dark red berries are striking and sure to add some pop to your offseason landscape.
A beautiful yet unassuming evergreen shrub for areas that can be difficult to grow much of anything is Fragrant Sweet Box. Tolerant of dry soil it prefers deep shade. It blossoms in late winter to early spring with tiny white flowers that produce a vanilla-esque fragrance. Red berries follow the blossom and can hang around for an extended period of time.
Not all winter plants need to be known for their flowers and berries. Red Twig Dogwood is a deciduous plant native to North America that shows off its coral red branches in the winter landscape. These shrubs produce yellowish white flowers in the spring followed by small blue berries. Red Twig Dogwood is an adaptive plant that will thrive in part to full sun. It is tolerant of pruning, but left unchecked will grow up to 9’ tall and 5’ wide.
Candy Tuft is a humble slowing growing groundcover that works well as a border or rock garden plant. It grows 8-10” tall; the guides say it will reach 12” wide. In my experience it will expand beyond the 12” benchmark. Small white flowers show off against its green glossy foliage. It will bloom from January to March and often will bloom again in the fall.
Witch Hazel is another low maintenance tree or shrub that has varieties that will blossom in December and throughout the winter months. The Witch Hazel flower is remarkable and eye catching in the winter garden. This zone 3-9 plant prefers full sun, but doesn’t mind some dappled shade in hotter climates. It likes regular water.
The plant to round out this list of winter favorites is Manzanita. It is a plant of wide ranging shapes and sizes, available as a ground cover, shrub and even tree form. Often it will begin blooming as early as December. Manzanita is evergreen and native to the Western United States. These plants are drought tolerant and their interesting branch structure and flower make them an attractive addition to a native or non-native planting alike.