Winter Gardening: Suggestions for Beautiful Winter Plants

One of the best reasons to plant in winter is the abundance of free water which translates into lower water bills and less immediate stress on plants (regardless of planting time they will require regular watering for at least the first Summer but Fall and winter plantings give the plant a better head start). With our mild winters most trees and shrubs as well as many perennials can be planted any time the ground is not frozen. Couple this with nursery sales of up to 60% off normal prices in Fall and Winter and you appreciate what a bargain winter planting can be.

Year Round Interest: Every area of the garden should have interest during the periods you spend time there or see it. Driveways and front entryways are particularly important. A few guidelines are:

  • Include a balance of evergreen and deciduous plants so things aren’t so bare
  • Consider stones, sculpture and other permanent features
  • Give priority to your hardscape design including stones, terraces, steps, bed shapes and paths
  • Select plants with winter interest

Exceptional Plants for Winter: There are a number of very beautiful plants I encourage you to consider for your winter garden:

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) is a shrub to small tree, vase shaped, blooming in mid winter with yellow, red or orange fragrant tassels, all the more stunning on bare branches.

Heath, winter flowering heathers, are another plant that looks lovely full of color in mid winter. A favorite combination of mine is Hamamelis ‘Arnold’s Promise’ (lemon yellow flowers) with white flowering heath planted underneath blooming at the same time.

Viburnum ‘bodnantense,’ decked with pink fragrant flowers from fall through spring is another plant to look into. Flowers are followed by an attractive berry and great fall foliage.

Sarcococca is a 1.5-7’ evergreen shrub for shadier areas with intensely fragrant white flowers. Its leaves are dark shiny green and shiny black or red berries follow the flowers depending on the variety.

Ornamental grasses are a whole group to look into. Some are evergreen, while others have seed heads and leaves which look beautiful in the frost over the winter. Carex ‘buchananii’ is golden-brown year round and looks great interplanted with Sedum “autumn joy” in a setting of granite rocks.

Cornus ‘mas,’ is another great plant for winter. It can become a medium sized tree with beautiful yellow flowers in winter.

Camellia ‘J.C. Williams’ is the longest blooming Camellia I know, beginning in January and continuing through May with single pink flowers and a gorgeous golden throated center. One of the things I like is its habit of dropping its flower heads just before they fade, saving dead heading.

Groundcover: The choice of groundcover makes a big difference to maintenance and winter appearance. Evergreen is important both for appearance and keeping down weeds but some evergreen groundcovers look better than others. Check out Fragaria ‘chiloensis’ (evergreen strawberry) for its shiny leaves, bright red stems and relatively neat appearance when so many groundcovers look ratty. Another to look into is Viola ‘labradorica.’ This violet grows 4-8″ tall, has a violet flower. Both it and the evergreen strawberry spread rapidly, do well in sun or shade and don’t require rich soils to thrive.