Landscapes tend to be dark and gray this time of year, but careful planning can result in subsequent winter gardens being more colorful and interesting. The key is selection of plant material and use of good design.
Landscapes tend to be dark and gray this time of year, but careful planning can result in subsequent winter gardens being more colorful and interesting. The key is selection of plant material and use of good design. Choose the vantage point from which the garden will be most commonly enjoyed. Select planting sites that are easily seen from this area. Green is the easiest color to add to a winter landscape with the use of broad-leaved evergreens, cedars, spruces and pines. Pines, and especially spruces, are not well adapted to Kansas conditions and need to be well cared for. Be careful if you decide to use blue spruce. The blue color will draw the eye and can detract from the rest of the landscape.
Normally, a single specimen plant works best. Of course, parts of the plants other than foliage can be colorful or interesting. Trees with horizontal branching patterns are interesting if there is snow-adding white to the bark color.
Some plants that should be considered for winter landscapes include:
• Lacebark Elm (Ulmus parvifolia). This is the true Chinese elm. A tough durable tree, the lacebark elm adapts well to poor soils and extremes in pH. The bark is what really sets this tree apart during the winter due to its mottled combinations of gray, green, orange and brown.
• Redosier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera). The young stems of this plant are bright red during the winter months and become more intensely colored toward spring. Older stems are often pruned out during the spring to encourage more of the young, more brightly colored twigs. Redosier Dogwood is shade tolerant.
• Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera 'Flaviramea'). This shrub is much like Redosier Dogwood except twigs are bright yellow rather than red.
• Winged Euonymus or Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus). This is the shrub that attracts so much attention in the fall because of the flaming red color of the fall foliage. However, stems are also ornamental in the winter because of their winged characteristics, which tend to catch and hold snow.
— Scott Eckert is a Kansas State Research and Extension Agent for Harvey County. Horticulture is his specialty.