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It’s time to appreciate structural plants as winter sets in, which can provide a scaffold or focal point during the cooler months for beds and borders.
With its winding, spiraling leaves, it may be a spooky corkscrew hazel, or some vivid dogwood stems whose bright reds and yellows provide a burst of color, or a Christmas box; in winter, its clusters of tiny fragrant white flowers fill the air.
Here are some of the plants for your garden that can add texture and form….
1. (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) corkscrew hazel.
In winter, this slightly spooky shrub has bare, twisted stems and can make a great focal point on your patio in a jar. During February or March, it bears golden yellow catkins. It’s best in a sunny place where you can admire its bizarre silhouette, and in winter arrangements, its stems are also perfect.
2. Christmas Bush for Christmas (Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna)
The spidery pinkish-white flowers can look nondescript, but you will be hooked once you catch their delicious fragrance. Sarcococcas are fine, hardy evergreens that grow into thick, upright shrubs – offering glossy green foliage year-round. To make the most of their rich fragrance, plant them near home entrances or along pathways, or place them at the beginning of a bed as a groundcover. S. Confusa is a smaller species, just 60 inches in height, but all like shady spots.
3. Bushes for tea (Dipsacus fullonum).
In the winter garden, do not forget that the seed heads have great architecture. Tea shrubs are just as interesting in winter as their cone-shaped seed heads provide accents at the back of the bed, a favorite in the cottage garden with spiky purple summer flowers. They are a lure for bees and other useful insects as well.
4. Miscanthus of the
When frost captures them and makes them glitter, ornamental grasses in crowds will look sublime. Not only are Miscanthus feathery eye-catchers, but in the winter, their airy, arching plumes will turn silver and add frosty beauty to the garden. For any size plot, whether you pick dwarf varieties or giants that grow more than 10 feet tall, the clump-forming growth habit is acceptable.
5. Dogwood-Dogwood (Cornus)
Bright red, yellow and orange shoots turn up on dogwoods like Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Flames’ in the coldest months. When the leaves turn pinkish-orange before falling to expose the colorful stems, interest starts in the fall. To ensure these stems retain bright color, cut established plants back to 10 inches above the ground in March.
6. Evergreen Flowers
Don’t neglect spent blooms from perennials in the winter garden, which can add texture and movement to the scene. Hydrangea flowers, for example, will turn brown but will retain their shape for most of the winter and provide some protection for emerging buds in early spring.
The bright yellow flowers of Rudbeckia laciniata leave only their black centers to admire in winter, especially when silhouetted against the winter sun. They provide a chocolaty contrast when paired with lighter colored grasses.
I know some gardeners can’t stand bamboo, with its creeping rhizomes that overgrow everything in its wake, but if you put it in a pot, you can enjoy fantastic color and form in the winter months, and it will provide welcome shade in the summer. Phyllostachys nigra is among the best bamboos when it comes to the dramatic black color of its trunks, while its elegant, graceful stems can grow up to 10 feet tall. Bamboos often look best near water, where the reflection shows off their vertical structure.