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Knowledge to Grow By Gail Daniels - Winter landscape planning


How does your winter landscape look? Does it have color and interest? Winter accounts for quite a large part of our year and this dormant season is the perfect time to plan changes for a winter landscape. In winter, with bare outlines exposed, it's much easier to see where hardier trees, shrubs and plants could add dimension and color.

When you are making your list of plants for spring planting, why not give some thought to plants that have characteristic features and colors that would add interest to your winter landscape. Evergreen foliage, persistent fruits, decorative bark, variations in plant shape and branching structure can add variety to the view from your windows.

Evergreen trees and shrubs are available in a wide range of sizes and color variations. They offer contrast in both color and texture in a snowy landscape such as we have been having this winter. Some, such as blue holly, a broadleaf evergreen, can be an attractive addition when properly located with the red or yellow berries it supplies into winter.  

A low, moist area can be a landscaping problem or an opportunity to plant Michigan holly and red or yellow twig dogwood. An improved cultivar of Michigan holly, Winter Red, has larger, redder fruits than the native species. The colorful stems of red and yellow twig dogwood provide a splash of color for the winter landscape. Bailey's Cardinal, Arctic Fire, Arctic Sun and Bud's Yellow are popular cultivars of shrub dogwood trees. You can easily fill in your winterscape from the countless evergreen species. A stately blue spruce grows to be a strong focal point and gives wind cover. The low growing wintergreen plant provides red and purple groundcover, with added benefits of edible red berries.

Containers are another option that will add winter interest. Buy some young, tough, winter hardy plants for outdoor containers. You can transplant them into the ground in the springtime.  Since container plants above ground are exposed to colder temperatures than plants in the ground, select plants for our Zone 5 as well as for colder zones such as Michigan Zone 4. Keep the containers and plants shielded from strong winds and insulated as much as possible, especially during extreme cold. 

Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange County.