Winter will be upon us before we know it. The vibrant colors of spring, summer, and fall will give way to grays and browns and fog and snow. But you can brighten your winter landscape with plants that have displays of foliage, bark or fruit. Here are some to consider.

PerennialsPerennial herbs like thyme and lavender keep their foliage all year. Rosemary will do well in a protected spot. Lenten roses (Helleborus orientalis) flower during the winter from a shady location.

Groundcovers like English ivy (Hedera helix), Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis), and myrtle (Vinca minor) are evergreen. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) keeps its bronze foliage color all winter, and blooms early in spring.

Ornamental grasses come in a wide range of sizes and foliage colors, and while the foliage may die back in fall the flower spikes can break up a winter landscape, especially in mass plantings.

Trees and ShrubsEvergreens (both broadleaf and thin needle types) are obvious choices for the winter landscape. Plant a variety of forms and foliage colors for the best effect. Two favorites: Youngstown junipers (Juniperus horizontalis plumosa compacta ‘Youngstown’) turn from medium gray-green in summer to a burgundy-gray in winter; and Foster hollies (Ilex x attenuata‘Fosteri’) keep their plethora of berries until spring.

Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) has blood red stems that stand out in the landscape, especially against a snowfall. Tartarian dogwood (Cornus alba) has both red and yellow stemmed varieties. Cut these shrubs down to 6 to 12 inches each spring before new growth starts, because first year stems have the best color. Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) has bright red foliage in winter, and some varieties have red berries that provide even more interest.

Plants with colorful or exfoliating bark like river birches and some crape myrtles remain interesting after their leaves have fallen. Some crabapples keep their fruit on the branches all winter, providing a colorful display.

This should be obvious, but make sure you place these plants in high traffic areas (like near your front door) so that visitors will see them. Or put them where they can be easily seen from inside. Don’t plant where they can only be viewed from the deck or patio or outdoor rooms, because you’re not out there much this time of year.

As you drive around the area this winter, look out for interesting plants. Landscaped roadway islands and interchanges have good examples. Take notes, then add some of these to your landscape next spring.

Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteerin Haywood County. For information, call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456-3575. © 2019 NC State University.

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