Winter in New England isn't usually thought of as a season for
gardens and home landscapes. With all the snow, ice, wind, and cold
temperatures how could there possibly be anything of interest or
beauty in winter's home landscape?
However, it is possible to plan or enliven a garden with plants and
plantings that, even with the fierce onset of winter, actually is
attractive and is something to admire in wintertime. Garden designers
call it "winter interest" and say it's possible to have a
four-season landscape even here in blustery New England. Winter
interest is when you look out of your window or you come to your home
- what do you see? If it's just a flat plain of grass, how do you
keep it from being monotonous and boring? Winter interest is adding a
fabric that you find visually interesting in the wintertime.
Winter transforms the landscape to its simplest form and structure.
It is this that is referred to as the "bones" of the
garden, and it's more evident in winter than any other season.
A garden's bones are its underlying design, walls, hedges, fences,
pathways, and other focal points. Part of the bones are the trees
that stick up, part of the bones is the contour of the earth. You can
place plants strategically so they become bones of the winter landscape.
Using space effectively makes a winter garden visually appealing.
Space is either positive or negative. The positive space is the space
that's filled up by plants. The negative space is the open space. The
positive space is what's filled up by objects that stick up in space
and the negative space is the flat space that you look across and
it's this interaction between the positive space and the negative
space that makes the landscape interesting. Gardening is not just
putting plants in, it's creating spaces that are imaginative and interesting.
perennials when left uncut at the end of the season will continue to
provide beauty, albeit subtle, late in the season when bloom is but a
memory. Certain perennials provide winter interest when snow and ice
cling to their dried stems, flowers, and seed heads. One of the best
is sedum. Sedum has interesting seed heads that catch snow and ice to
create an interesting wintertime scene in the garden. There are many
different autumn-blooming sedum. One of the showiest is Sedum
'Brilliant.' Large, flat-topped clusters of
brilliant-pink flowers top attractive, chartreuse, fleshy leaves.
It's very uniform, forming a nice vase shape about a foot and a half
high and wide and it blooms in late summer and early autumn.
normally in full bloom in summer, upon dropping its petals reveals
small black cones that become little snow caps when a light snow
falls. Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'
is one of the most floriferous of the rudbeckias. Masses of bright,
golden-yellow, daisy-like flowers with dark-brown cones are the
hallmark of this rudbeckia. Blooming from midsummer to frost, it
forms a handsome wide clump up to three feet high and nearly as wide.
also provide winter interest. They bloom profusely from midsummer to
fall, then their interesting cones remain attractive through winter
and, like rudbeckias, look like little snow caps. There are many
different coneflowers, with a range of sizes and colors. Hybridizers
have been hard at work developing new varieties in recent years. A
stunning new variety is called 'Green
Jewel.' This new coneflower features flowers with
single, light-green rays surrounding a large, dark-green cone. It
blooms abundantly from midsummer through late summer. Its flowers are
three to five inches wide and hold their green color with age. It has
a nice compact, upright habit, requiring no staking.
the best attribute of ornamental grasses is their subtle beauty
throughout winter as snow and ice cling to them. The rustling of
their dried stems and leaves is almost musical on winter days. Most
grasses turn shades of tan and beige after frost, and these muted
colors contrast nicely with evergreens and snow. Of the many
different ornamental grasses, one of my favorites is Miscanthus
'Adagio.' It produces an abundance of flower plumes that
appear in mid August. I leave the dried plumes through winter to
provide winter interest. I consider it one of the best ornamental
is a musical term which in Italian means "slowly and
gracefully" and that's a fitting description of this plant. It
forms a clump just four feet high and wide, with the flowers.
shrubs have berries or fruits that persist through autumn, into
winter, and, in some cases, hold on until spring. Shrubs bloom in
spring or summer providing color then, and as an added bonus, some
hold onto their berries into winter with snow-covered ground being
the perfect backdrop to the brightly colored berries. One of my
favorite shrubs for winter interest is purple
beautyberry. Purple beautyberry
is aptly named. It has beautiful purple berries. The uniquely colored
light purple fruit are formed in small clusters up and down each
stem. Purple beautyberry
is low-growing, under four feet tall, and prefers full sun and
fertile soil. This shrub for winter berries forms fruit on new
growth, so each spring you can cut it back to six inches above the
ground to keep its height in check.