Trees and Shrubs for the Winter Landscape

With a little planning and effort, it’s easy to create a beautiful yard and garden in the off-season by choosing the right trees and shrubs for the winter landscape.

| Fall 2018

  • Helleborus orientalis Lenten Roses
    Brighten up any yard or garden with Lenten roses.
    Photo by Getty/egschiller
  • Cornus sericea twig dogwoods
    The bark on red and yellow twig dogwoods makes for a beautiful winter landscape.
    Photo by Getty/mtreasure
  • crocus chrysanthus snow crocus
    Snow crocus are available in a variety of colors.
    Photo by Getty/NajaShots
  • Eranthis hyemalis winter aconite
    An early bloomer, winter aconite often pops up before the snow clears.
    Photo by Getty/habrda
  • Hamamelis virginiana witch hazel
    Witch hazel blooms from October to December in most regions.
    Photo by Getty/LianeM

  • Helleborus orientalis Lenten Roses
  • Cornus sericea twig dogwoods
  • crocus chrysanthus snow crocus
  • Eranthis hyemalis winter aconite
  • Hamamelis virginiana witch hazel

In areas of North America that experience seasonal changes, the winter garden can be drab and dreary, with brown grass and mud, snow that eventually becomes dingy and gray, and bare limbs on trees and shrubs — all framed by a dull sky. It's enough to make a gardener want to hibernate. Luckily, there are some ornamental plants that bring gorgeous color to the winter landscape.

Consider planting one or more of the following ornamentals on your property for amazing color during the winter season. All of them can be purchased online, at places such as Direct Gardening and White Flower Farm, or you can check with your local nursery or garden center to see if they have them or know of a local source. 

Witch Hazel

Common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), best suited for Zones 3 through 8, is one of nature's early blooming treasures. This unusual plant (a tree or shrub, depending on how it's grown) boasts fragrant, spider-like gold, orange, or red flowers that bloom as the leaves are turning color in autumn. It generally grows to 15 to 20 feet tall, with a similar spread, although it can reach 30 feet tall in some cases.

While common witch hazel blooms early, some cultivars don't flower until late winter. The foliage of witch hazels turns from pale yellow to deep orange in fall, and the plant requires slightly acidic soil, good drainage, and full sun to perform its best.

Twig Dogwoods

Red twig — or red osier — dogwood (Cornus sericea) and yellow twig dogwood (Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea' ) make it easy to fill the color gap in winter and early spring, even though they don't bloom. These shrubs have multiple stems with brightly colored bark, and while neither are showstoppers during bloom season, once they lose their leaves in winter, they're simply beautiful, and they benefit from regular pruning in early spring to encourage new stem growth.

Dogwoods grow well in Zones 3 through 7. Red twig dogwoods reach 6 to 9 feet tall with a spread of 7 to 10 feet, and yellow twig dogwoods grow from 5 to 6 feet tall with a similar spread.



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