often, winter is considered the dead season in the
garden. It doesn’t have to be that way when you plan
and plant with every season — not just spring and
summer — in mind.
is nothing more beautiful to me than the silhouette of
trees against a winter sky," says Peggy Krapf of
Heart’s Ease Landscape & Garden Design —
www.HeartsEaseLandscape.com — in Williamsburg, Va.
is where good or bad pruning becomes really evident.
Trees should be carefully pruned so they are as
beautiful in the winter as they are in the summer.
also love ornamental grasses in the garden any time of
year — but especially winter. They are a lovely foil
for other plants around them and the birds love to eat
the seeds they produce. They add great interest to the
winter landscape. I cut them down in early spring, just
as the new growth begins."
Krapf’s viewpoint, the best winter gardens have a good
balance of evergreen plants to deciduous species so
everything doesn’t "disappear" in winter. Be
sure to choose plants carefully for winter because deer
are hungriest at that time of year, less picky about
what they will and won’t eat and are likely to nibble
on most anything, she advises.
especially love gardens with a lot of strong structural
elements as well … or good ‘bone,’ " says
Krapf, a member of the Virginia Society of Landscape
Designers – www.vsld.org.
walls, fencing, patios, even statuary and accents like
benches and birdhouses give interest to a space when
many plants are dormant or not looking their best.
containers can be filled with greenery and colorful
berries to carry through till the worst of winter is
an eye-catching winter garden, Krapf favors perennials
like Hellebores (both orientalis and foetidus),
evergreen ferns, euphorbia and some herbs such as
rosemary and sage.
I especially love is Arum Italicum, known as Lords and
Ladies," she says.
call it ‘hosta for the winter,’ but this one is deer
resistant. Shiny, speckled, arrow-shaped leaves appear
in great clumps in late fall and persist all winter
long, looking fresh even in the coldest weather. I use
them in flower arrangements with hellebores and other
winter evergreens. When weather warms the leaves go
dormant and completely disappear. The plants then send
up foot-tall stems in summer that are covered with
orange berries for multi-season interest."
Yorktown, Va., Allan Hull, nursery manager at Peninsula
Hardwood Mulch — www.peninsulahardwoodmulch.com —
likes mahonias such as Winter Sun and Soft Caress.
Sun is a fabulous hybrid shrub adaptable from shade to
sun," says Hull.
cane will sprout a large bright yellow bloom spike in
winter, typically all December long. It is lightly
fragrant and will also produce small green berries
resembling grapes, which the birds eat.
Caress is a dwarf version of Winter Sun except the
leaves are slender and are not thorny."
he favors include:
Blue Cascade. Distylium is a relatively new plant group.
There are several varieties, some compact, some larger.
Distyliums are very tough and have a spreading habit but
dense. They are evergreen with small oval dark green
leaves resembling fall camellias. Red blooms form all
along the stems sometime in winter. Distylium seems to
have no pest or pathogen problems, and is being touted
as a good replacement for Indian Hawthorn and its leaf
spot problems. Blue Cascade is a nice compact three foot
by four foot type; it prefers sun but tolerates part
Hazel, Hamamellis. Witch Hazel is extremely cold hardy,
tolerating temperatures to minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is so cold tolerant that if the weather is
subfreezing the blooms will close back up and reopen the
next day when the sun returns to warm the buds. Most
Witch Hazels are considered large shrubs or small trees,
reaching about 18 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Witch
Hazels also provide outstanding fall foliage color,
ranging from yellows and oranges to reds, and can be
extremely striking. In Hampton Roads, they bloom in
winter, typically in February. The fragrance is a
delightful citrus aroma. Favorites include clear orange
Jelena, yellow Sunburst a nice yellow, lavender Amethyst
and red Diana.
Sweetbox, Confusa. Sweetbox is a greatly underused shrub
with small dark leaves on a compact, evergreen, rounded
habit. Its blooms are somewhat insignificant, however
the fragrance produced is plentiful. The blooms are
white and open in February, sometimes earlier in mild
winters. Sweetbox shrubs are natural in part shade but
are adaptable to full sun. Confusa grows to about four
feet wide and tall.
Hampton, Va., landscape designer Beverly Martin,
believes winter interest in the garden calls for mixing
involves planning a mix of evergreens in a variety of
colors as well as deciduous plants that look good
naked," says Martin.
winter-time favorites include:
It’s easy to grow in full sun or part shade, reaching
about five feet tall. The leaf scars on the stems give
it a unique look in winter as well as the silver buds on
the branch tips that open to fragrant yellow flowers in
redbud. The delicate weeping branches are beautiful when
there is no foliage in winter — cold weather is also
the best time to prune the plant because you can see the
branch structure. In early spring, branches are covered
with pink or lavender buds depending on the variety.
hollies. Sparkleberry is the best for winter interest,
growing about 10 feet tall. The leafless branches are
covered with bright red berries in winter and are
stunning in a mass. The female hollies bear the berries
and you need a pollinating male nearby. They will grow
in sun or part shade and tolerate wet areas, making them
a good choice for rain gardens as well. There are other
cultivars in different sizes with orange and yellow
berries; use them in flower arrangements and as food for