Selecting Winter Plants

Evergreens are some of the hardest working plants in the garden – they provide a backdrop for flowering plants in spring and summer, highlight vibrant fall color, and provide structure and interest in the winter garden.While the value of evergreens is widely understood, many gardeners see them as a necessary evil – plants that are important but that can be boring, without the dynamic seasonal changes of other types of plants. One evergreen that is definitely not boring is the Thunderhead. A shrub form pine, the Thunderhead, can be broader than tall with an irregular form and showy candles. Consider using the Thunderhead where you would ordinarily use a midsize deciduous specimen like a Japanese Maple.

Thunderhead Pine Thunderhead Pine – Pinus
thunbergiana ‘Thunderhead’
Another important consideration when designing with evergreens is to remember that even among this group of plants you can still use different colors and textures to create contrast and visual interest. Two evergreens that provide strong contrast when planted together are The feathery foliage of the Japanese Cedar is brought out by the smooth variegated leaves of the Pittosporum.
Tree Japanese Cedars – Cryptomeria japonica
‘Yoshino’ and Variegated Pittosporum –
Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’.
There is also a great deal of variation in how different plants respond to the harsh conditions that can come with winter. Some plants can be burned by wind, or scalded by the lower sun angle of the winter sun, others can get bogged down or broken by snow and ice. One ornamental grass not only brightens up a dark spot in the garden, it also tolerates the harsh conditions of winter.
greens Variegated Acorus – Acorus ‘Ogon’
Finally, remember when selecting evergreens that there are some that provide attractive foliage as well as beautiful flowers during the winter months. Both fall and spring blooming Camellias – Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica offer varieties that bloom during winter. Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ is one such plant with beautiful bright red/pink blooms in December and January that are shown off by glossy broadleaved foliage.
camellia Yuletide Camellia – Camellia sasangua ‘Yuletide’
As you work on your garden this winter consider using one of more of these great plants. And, if you have a project that you need help with, let us know!