2014 10 12 – Winter Interest

I was looking at the pile of plants that I have left to find a home for, trying to plan where everything is going to get planted. While doing this, I’ll often cast a critical eye at some of my gardens, figuring out what works, and what just isn’t pulling its weight. These will often get dug up and moved to the edge of the woods. I’m not very good at killing plants outright, but prefer to give them a fighting chance somewhere less conspicuous. Luckily I have the room to do so.
In planning everything, I find myself more and more taking into account fall colours and winter interest. Planning for fall colours is usually pretty easy and something many gardeners do. Viburnum plicata tom Mariesii EOS - Acer japonicum AconitifoliumEOS2 - Acer palmatum WinterflamePlanning for winter interest, however, is often more of a happy accident rather than planned.
There are many ways of bringing winter interest into a garden or property. Sometimes it can be as easy as the shape of a shrub, which becomes more evident in the winter when they’ve lost their leaves. The gnarly twisted shape of curly willow, Twisty Baby black locust or, one of my personal favourites, corkscrew hazel.
Another way to get winter interest is in the colour of the stems and branches. Many dogwoods have bright red stems in the winter, and some have yellow or peachy-orange. There are a number of Japanese maples that have red, pink, coral or orange stems in the winter, like Sango Kaku, Winter Flame, or Oridono Nishiki. Blueberries and curly willows also have nicely coloured stems in the winter. Dogwoods, curly willow and blueberry branches are often used to decorate winter arrangements because of the colour of their stems. Paperbark maples and Stewartia also give winter interest because of their bark, especially as they mature. While in Boston in 2012, I found myself constantly photographing the trunk and branches of Stewartia, and then promptly planted one for myself when I got home. They don’t show their interest until they’re a little more mature than mine is. I can hardly wait.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Another form of winter interest that I’m finding myself more and more attracted to are evergreens that change colour in the winter. Many cultivars have shown up, specifically because of their winter colour. The Scott’s pine Aurea was an absolutely brilliant yellow this past winter, then changed back to green in the spring. I planted a Hillside Gold douglas fir last year for it’s beautifully rich golden colour in the winter. Jantar (Polish for amber) is a new cedar that came out this year with beautiful yellow needles all summer, but it’s named for it’s amber colour in the winter. Wintergold is a large concolor fir that also turns yellow in the winter and makes an amazing statement. Carsten’s Wintergold is a very small mugo pine that also turns yellow in the winter.
Despite the fact that I have 39 trees, shrubs and perennials left to plant over the next three weeks before I become too busy with Christmas arrangements, I keep eying the small Carsten’s Wintergold standards that have just started turning yellow this past week, thinking I can find the perfect home for one. Just because we live in Canada, it doesn’t mean we can’t have beautiful gardens in the winter too.Pinus mugo Carstens Wintergold


About johnsgarden

I have a garden centre which operates out of my home in Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada I write columns for a local paper, which I will include here
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1 Response to 2014 10 12 – Winter Interest

  1. Monique says:

    What a timely and well written bit, John. I too, am constantly looking at my space and trying to maximize the winter interest potential. If only I had more room…..

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