As gardeners in the South, our mild winters preclude our absence from the outdoors…so why should our gardens not be beautiful in the winter as well as the warmer months? There are a surprising number of trees and shrubs that can add winter interest to the garden with their architectural elements, colorful berries, fragrant flowers, exfoliating bark, or evergreen foliage. A few simple additions can transform your garden into a winter showplace…
1. Winter Daphne (Daphne odora). A beautiful winter-blooming evergreen shrub available in a green-leafed and a variegated form. Magenta pink buds open to rosy pink flowers exuding the fragrance of the heavens. One of my absolute favorite plants!
2. Red Twig/Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera). Choose between fiery red stems that literally glow in the winter sunshine or sunny yellow stems that brighten a gloomy winter day. Planted together, they create a stunning contrasting visual display.
3. Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha). A shrub boasting large silvery buds in autumn that open in mid-winter to bright yellow tubular flowers with a sweet smelling fragrance.
4. Flowering Apricot (Prunus mume). A lovely small tree with a stunning winter display of gorgeous pink flowers—a real show-stopper. Great for the wildlife garden as it provides pollen for honeybees when little else is blooming.
5. Pink Dawn Viburnum (Viburnum bodnantense). Blue berries in autumn are followed by wonderfully fragrant bright pink flowers in winter. This deciduous shrub is another favorite of our endangered honeybee friends (and a favorite of mine as well).
6. Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox). A hard-to-find old garden favorite with yellow flowers opening in late winter to provide a wonderful spicy fragrance.
7. Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata). A deciduous holly with a vibrant display of crimson berries to delight the eyes of humans and the beaks of birds all the winter long.
8. Winter Heath/Heather (Erica carnea/Calluna vulgaris). Dwarf mounding shrubs that provide fall and winter interest with their delicate flowers and fine foliage that can change color with cold weather to red, orange, or bronze.
9. Cornelian Dogwood (Cornus mas). Clusters of red berries in summer and fall are followed by tiny yellow inflorescences of flowers in late winter with a bonus of subtly exfoliating bark.
10. Soft Caress Mahonia (Mahonia eurybracteata). A brand new release, this Mahonia has unusual delicate bamboo-like evergreen foliage and racemes of bright yellow flowers in winter. A really lovely new plant that is perfect for the Asian-inspired garden.
11. Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima). Creamy white flowers sweeten the air with their lemony fragrance from January to March. Include a few branches in a cut flower arrangement to enjoy the fragrance indoors.
12. Hybrid Witch Hazel (Hammamelis x intermediary). The hybrid Witch Hazels are attractive vase-shaped trees with excellent fall color and a fine display of fragrant ribbon-like flowers in mid-late winter. ‘Arnold’s Promise’ has bright yellow flowers, ‘Jelena’ is a burnished copper, and ‘Diane’ has flowers of glowing red.
13. Spike Winter Hazel (Corylopsis spicata). This shrub has zigzagging branches that add a dramatic architectural element in the winter months. However, its most outstanding feature is the soft yellow pendulous blossoms in late winter that release a fragrance redolent of sweet incense.
14. Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis). A lovely winter-blooming perennial with attractive semi-evergreen foliage and nodding blossoms of cream, pink, blush, and burgundy. Often the blooms have speckles and splotches that invite closer inspection. Many new hybrids are available with exciting characteristics like upright and double flowers.