Finding breathtaking BEAUTY in the WINTER LANDSCAPE!

Against a barren winter canvas, surprising beauty can still be found in your landscape:

Texture, color and structure can still be found in the landscape, despite the lack of much vegetation this time of year. Plant material, even without its foliage, can serve as Mother Nature's paintbrush! With less plant material in a winter garden, the emphasis shifts. The color and texture of bark can be major attributes in the winter landscape. The exfoliating bark of River Birch, the 'Natchez' Crape Myrtle with its shedding brown and cinnamon-red bark and the striped grays of Serviceberry contrast nicely with snow. Another plant favored for its winter bark is the Redosier or Redtwig Dogwood. Perennial grasses with plumes make a striking display in the winter landscape, if left uncut.

Touting Winter's Textures:

Once the leaves are fallen, there are surprising attributes of certain plant material become evident. Trees and shrubs with exfoliating bark, as well as, branching patterns can be seen. Weeping, layered or contorted plants are more pronounced without leaves because of their the unique forms. Weeping Japanese Maple and Harry Lauder's Walking Stick are great examples of this structure. Use one of these examples with unusual winter features in your garden for huge winter impact:

  • Crimson Queen Japanese Maple
  • Harry Lauder's Walking Stick
  • Nandina
  • Abelia
  • Natchez Crape Myrtle
  • River Birch
  • Trident Maple
  • Paperbark Maple
  • Paper Birch
  • Kousa Dogwood
  • Japanese Stewartia
  • 'Lavender Twist' Weeping Redbud
  • Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar

Berries, Berries everywhere:

In our area, evergreen holly tops most winter lists with its rich green foliage and bright red berries. A less used beauty (unfortunately) is the Winterberry Holly, a deciduous shrub that features mass quantities of vibrant berries after its leaves fall. Crabapples and hawthorns, also are eye-catching assets with beautiful fruit sets. Try some of these trees and shrubs for gorgeous fruit display all winter long.

  • Winter King Hawthorne
  • Crabapple
  • Viburnum
  • Pyracantha
  • Winterberry Holly
  • Burford Holly
  • Nellie Stevens Holly
  • Serviceberry
  • Kousa Dogwood
  • Nandina domestica
  • Cotoneaster
  • Beautyberry

Unexpected Color: Some plant material surprise us with unexpected color in their bark and stems in winter. My favorite example of this is the Coral Bark Japanese Maple, which showcases its bright red bark.  In addition, some evergreen trees and shrubs change color all winter for a complete change in the look of the landscape.Take a look at these great examples for a surprise this winter:

  • Coral Bark Japanese Maple
  • Red or Yellow Twigged Dogwood
  • Nandina
  • Abelia
  • Juniper
  • Cotoneaster

Unexpected BLOOMS! YES- some plants DO bloom in winter! Take a look at these beauties for a great bloom display when everything else is dormant:

  • Hellebore
  • Sasanqua Camellia
  • Redbud
  • Paperbush
  • Witch Hazel
  • Winter Jasmine
  • Winter Honeysuckle
  • 'Dawn' Viburnum

Hardscape and other Highlights:
The trend toward providing year-round visual interest can expand beyond color and texture of plant material alone. Attractive and functional winter scenes easily are enhanced through design elements such as arbors, gazebos, benches, stone walls, crack-resistant planters, trellis, yard art and lighting.  In addition, strategically placed landscape lighting fixtures can highlight pathways, accessories, plant groupings or the architectural sculpture of trees.  Winterlandscape lighting provides more dramatic accenting because uplighting on empty branches and selected foliage creates better reflection and shadowing.

READ MORE about plants with fall and winter interest at:

About the Author:

Lori Hawkins, RLA, ASLA has been a registered landscape architect and active in the landscape design/build industry for over 25 years. For additional inspiring project pictures, design ideas, or great garden gifts, take a look at these websites: