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Ask Horti

Molly Dixon

   by Hortense E. Toity (a.k.a. Horti Toity)

by Hortense E. Toity (a.k.a. Horti Toity)

 Dear Horti,

I am anxious for snow to cover the sins of my garden, since right now it is brown and bare without blossoms and leaves.  Thoughts?

 Yours,

 Dee Rabb


Dear Dee,

Cleveland winters are long and cold, as we who tough out the elements know.   No palm trees and bougainvillea for us!  You can create a beautiful winter scene in your yard with arresting textures, colors, fragrance and flowers. 

Bark becomes an important ornamental element in winter when the shedding of leaves exposes trunks and branches and reveals its glory.  From warty to smooth, peeling to furrowed, tobacco to cinnamon red, salmon pink or stark white, the variety of bark colors and textures is fascinating.  Often, varying bark textures can be admired on the same tree, and this adds a most attractive and stunning character during winter. 

Favorite plants with bark include Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple), Acer palmatum ‘Sango-Kaku’ or ‘Eddisbury’ (Coral Bark Maple), Acer triflorum (three-flowered maple), Betula (Birch), Heptacodium miconioides (Seven Son Flower), Hypericum kalmianum (Kalm’s St Johns Wort), Parrotia persica (Persian ironwood), Prunus serrula (Tibetan Cherry), and Stewartia pseudocamellia (Japanese Stewartia).

A quick and easy way to add dramatic winter interest is to plant deciduous shrubs or trees with colorful stems and twigs.  Attracting the eye with their bright, showy colors, the twigs may be brilliant scarlet, olive green, greenish-yellow, or even black.  They may be straight or enjoy lovely curling shapes.

Favorite plants for color include Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ or ‘Kesselringii’ (Tatarian Dogwood), Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ or ‘Annie’s Winter Orange’ (Bloodtwig Dogwood), Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’ or ‘Flaviramea’ (Redosier Dogwood).  These plants can be planted separately or mixed together, for a tapestry of winter color.  Other particularly attractive options include Corylus avellana ‘Constorta’ (Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick), and Salix alba (Willow). 

All these plants are cold hardy, versatile, fast-growing and of great appeal in other seasons too, with stunning fall color, attractive berries, or lush summer foliage.

Some trees and shrubs display beautiful fruits in late summer or fall, which persist into winter.  In a glorious display of crimson, orange, yellow or even purple, their attractive fruits adorn their branches in eye-catching bouquets, which gleam like jewels in the soft sunlight.  In addition, the fruits of some species provide wild birds with high protein food.  If you wish to admire berries in the winter, you need to select trees or shrubs with fruits that the birds shun until spring. 

Limbs - Dozie Herbruck.jpg

Plants to consider for their cheerful fruits include Aronia (Chokeberry), Callicarpa (Beautyberry), Celastrus scandens (AMERICAN Bittersweet), Ilex (Holly), Malus (Crab Apple), Symphoricarpos (Snowberry) or Viburnum. 

Some roses produce equally attractive red-orange hips that last well into winter, such as Rosa rugosa, Rosa moyesii, or Rosa glauca.

While flowers are usually associated with spring or summer, they can also contribute to the beauty of the winter garden.  Adapted to endure harsh winter conditions, they bring the garden to life with their bright, showy colors and attract the eye.  Most people celebrate daffodils as the harbingers of spring without being aware that many other plants flower much earlier. Plants to consider for their cheerful flowers include Helleborus (Hellebores), Hamamelis (Witch Hazel), Erica (Heath), Iris reticulata (Dwarf Iris), Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry), Lonicera fragrantissima (Sweetest Honeysuckle), Erathis hyemalis (Winter Aconite), and Viola odorata (Sweet Violet).

Attractive, easy to grow and low maintenance, ornamental grasses are invaluable additions to the winter garden.  Waving gracefully in the slightest breeze, they add movement to the garden, but also texture and color since most warm up to shades of bronze, tan or russet in the cooler months to create an impressive display.  They offer a rich and interesting contrast with emerald evergreens, bright crimson berries and crisp white snow.  In addition, many are a source of food and shelter for birds. 

Recommended ornamental grasses for winter interest are Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats), Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted Hair Grass), Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed, Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass), Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ (Sedge), Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea (Moor Grass), Calamagrostis brachytricha (Reed Grass), and Festuca glauca (Blue Fescue), or Calamagrostis x acutiflora (Feather Reed Grass).

Here’s to lots of texture, color and movement to compliment Cleveland’s sunny winters! 

 Yours truly,

 Horti Toity

Borrowed heavily from Gardenia.net

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