When doing designs this time of year client’s get stuck on wanting evergreen- everywhere. An argument that I make is that much of the strength of gardens is what it gives you in structure this time of year. If your garden looks great in the winter it looks great all year long.
Take for example this European Hornbeam tree. When there are no leaves, it serves as strong vertical accent and is holding its leaves even in early December. It is often used in hedges for its strong screening ability with or without leaves. It has a non invasive root system which makes it great in the patio setting. If you drive down Carytown you will see them in the tree lawn.
This Weeping Katsura’s fabulous in any season. In the winter you get its arching branches. Then in the spring emerges a caramel scented, heart shaped leaf that is purple red in color. It turns to blue green and then orange in the fall. As if this isn’t enough, it has tiny red flowers in March. What’s not to like?
The Heritage River Birch has a copper and black bark that gives a real texture to the garden in winter. Its long tendril of branches in the upper canopy blows with the cold wind. It can withstand the harshest conditions if it is wet or dry and takes very little maintenance. Their leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. Through hybridization they now have a rapid growth rate and are inexpensive to boot. We often plant them in triads to get something going quickly when there is an empty palette.
Red berries on the Winterberry bush and cranberry colored berries on the Aronia are a bright spot in a bare landscape. They hang on for months if the birds don’t get them first.
Grasses have a personality of their own when the wind blows. Many cultivars have a different winter color. They stay with us till late winter when you cut them back for anther round of seasonal change.
Finally the Red Sunset Maple in this case makes a lovely triad of the repeat shape. Snow lightly sitting on each branch in the winter gives an artistic sketch in the landscape.