Landscapes tend to be drab and boring this time of year. However, careful planning and the addition of a few plants can result in winter gardens with more color and interest.
Choose the vantage point from which the garden will typically be enjoyed in winter and develop planting beds that are easily seen from this area. Then select a few plants to create a show-stopping winter garden.
Green is the easiest color to add to a winter landscape. Broad-leaved evergreens, cedars, spruces and pines are easy to find and maintain. Similarly, blue spruce adds the color blue. And red twig dogwoods add a crimson touch to any moist site.
Of course, other plant characteristics can be interesting in the dormant season. Trees with horizontal branching structure or branches that twist and curl can be fun to look at especially when there is a light covering of fresh white snow.
Here are a few plants that will add interest to your winter landscape:
Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea). The young stems of this plant are bright red during winter and become more intensely colored toward spring. Older stems are often pruned out during the spring to encourage more of the young, more brightly colored twigs. Red twig dogwood tolerates shade.
Yellow twig dogwood (Cornus sericea Flaviramea). This shrub is much like red twig dogwood, but the twigs are bright yellow rather than red.
Winged euonymus or burning bush (Euonymus alatus). This is the shrub that attracts so much attention in the fall because of its flaming red foliage. However, the stems are also ornamental in the winter due to their winged characteristics that tend to catch and hold snow.
Lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia). This is the true Chinese elm. A tough durable tree, the lacebark elm adapts well to poor soils and pH extremes. The bark is what really sets this tree apart during the winter due to its mottled combinations of gray, green, orange and brown.
River birch (Betula nigra). This is another tree with interesting winter bark. The flaky bark is reddish-brown to peach and contrasts nicely with snow. River birch tolerates wet or dry sites.
Although we may not be able to get outside and work in the garden, viewing it from a distance and enjoying the ever-changing colors, textures and wildlife it attracts may be the next best thing.
Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.