One of the biggest misconceptions in the gardening world is the idea that your garden goes away in the winter months. While it’s true that all our plants go dormant, or die back at the end of autumn, it is not true that the garden ceases to be a fixture of your landscape. Green isn’t the only color you are stuck with when using evergreens, many conifers change color in the cold weather, offering more seasonality. Using an evergreen is a classic choice to keep color going, but there are also many deciduous plants that are just as showy, if not more. Woody plants aren’t the only choice in many cases, many perennial plants sport evergreen features as well.
Evergreens with Alternate Looks - Don’t limit yourself to green, green is a background color, green is not your showstopper. Expand your palette with yellows, blues, bronzes, and reds. Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mop' stays a bright yellow most of the year, the coloring is muted slightly in the winter. Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold' also offers vibrant tones of yellow. Blue is also easy to add, with a Colorado blue spruce, which comes in many sizes and shapes with all the cultivars available. Groundcover junipers like Juniperus Squamata ‘Blue Star’ and Juniperus Horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’ also offer more subtle pops of color. Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ or Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar is fairly ubiquitous in our area, and for good reason, nothing else in your garden will look quite like a mature tree of this type. For a bright red flare, look no further than Nandina ‘Firepower’ or ‘Gulf Stream’, you’ll find shockingly red foliage that lasts all winter, but will fall off and replace itself in early spring.
Deciduous Shrubs and Trees - Using the color, texture and shape provided by the bark and branching of your shrubs and trees can create great highlights against an evergreen hedge or border. Trees like Paperbark Maple (Acer Griseum) or River Birch (Betula Nigra) evoke a woodland feel. To bring some color in, use a Red-twig or Osier Dogwood (Cornus Alba/Sericea), you can find these in Red and Yellow varieties that also sport handsome flowers, foliage and berries at other points in the year. Weeping Japanese Maples also offer striking silhouettes when all their foliage has fallen, they also offer an uncommon shape to accentuate any holiday lighting. Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') is likely one of the most unusual looking shrubs you may have ever seen, it features extremely contorted branches, made more visible after leaf drop, which may remind you of the Brothers Grimm darker fairy tales, or a good Tim Burton film. Take the birds into account when planting too, native plants like American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana), Winter Berry Holly (Ilex Verticillata), or Blue Muffin Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) offer color to us, and nourishment to the creatures we share our gardens with.
Mostly Evergreen Perennials – If you have a shade garden, you will find an additional benefit from many shade loving perennials. Certain ferns are considered evergreen, Christmas and Tassel fern are both in the genus Polystichum, and their hardy foliage will help spruce up the barren garden beds, or forest floor. Many ferns will keep their fertile fronds upright throughout the winter, offering little promises of spring. Cinnamon fern has better color with its orange fronds; Ostrich fern is a drab dark brown, but still plenty interesting. Lenten Rose (Helleborus) are a year round champ, flowers in late winter that persist most of the year, and evergreen foliage that withstands the harshest of winter weather. Most of the foliage will end up looking tattered by winter’s end, but a quick trim will refresh your perennials for the spring emergence. For the sunny garden, look no further than your wide assortment of perennial grasses. Schizachyrium Scoparium, Miscanthus Sinensis, Andropogon Gerardii, the list is shockingly long and it’s very hard to go wrong with tall stalks of bronze/brown grass that accentuate the winter winds.
Written by Patrick Gravel, Perennials Manager
Posted By Gina DeMatteis