While winter is the farthest thing from most gardener's minds (though Mother Nature keeps firmly reminding us of its persistence this year), an attractive landscape requires careful planning for seasonal interest throughout the year. Since the Iowa landscape is dormant 4 to 6 months of the year, extending the attractiveness of the landscape and garden into the fall and winter can help make our winters a little more bearable. Winter gardening doesn't use the flowers and fragrances of summer gardening. Instead a variety of plants are used to add shape, color and texture to create eye-catching displays.
Evergreen trees and shrubs with various shades of greens and blues and interesting shapes are staples of many winter landscapes. Deciduous trees with interesting bark characteristics like paperbark maple or unusual branching habits like pagoda dogwood can also aid in providing winter charm.
Many herbaceous perennials also have interesting fall and winter appeal. Some have foliage like bergenia which turns maroon with the onset of cold temperatures. The foliage of grape-hyacinth emerges late in the season and persists through winter. Perennials like Achillea overwinter with a rosette of foliage close to the ground. Lavender, sage, thyme and other herbs hold their foliage late in the season. Yucca plants possess a unique character especially after a snowfall. Some ornamental grasses are grown specifically for their attractive seedheads in the winter.
The following list contains additional perennial suggestions for winter gardens.
|Rock Cress||Arabis caucasica|
|European Wild Ginger||Asarum europaeum|
|Sea Thrift||Armeria maritima|
|Lenten Rose||Helleborus orientalis|
|Coral Bells||Heuchera spp.|
|Evergreen Candytuft||Iberis sempervirens|
|Spotted Dead Nettle||Lamium maculatum|
|Moss Phlox||Phlox subulata|
|Bethlehem Sage||Pulmonaria spp.|
|Autumn Joy sedum||Sedum x 'Autumn Joy'|
|Stonecrop Sedum||Sedum spectabile|
|Lamb's Ears||Stachys byzantina|
|Foam Flower||Tiarella cordifolia|
|Feather Reed Grass||Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'|
|Fall Blooming Reed Grass||Calamagrostis brachytricha|
|Giant Miscanthus||Miscanthus floridulus|
|Small Japanese Silver Grass||Miscanthus oligostachyus|
|Chinese Silver Grass||Miscanthus sacchariflorus|
|Silverfeather Miscanthus||Miscanthus sinensis 'Siberfedher'|
|Moor Grass||Molinia caerulea (all cultivars)|
|Switch Grass||Panicum virgatum|
|Red Switch Grass||Panicum virgatum 'Haense Herms','Rotstrahlbusch','Rehbraun'|
|Fountain Grass||Pennisetum alopecuroides|
|Little Bluestem||Schizachyrium scoparium|
|Cord Grass||Spartina pectinata|
|Variegated Cord Grass||Spartina pectinata ''Aureomarginata'|
|Prairie Dropseed||Sporobolus heterolepsis|
|Ebony Spleenwort||Asplenium platyneuron|
|Marginal Shield Fern||Dryopteris marginalis|
|Christmas Fern||Polystichum acrostichoides|
Most people desire a colorful landscape throughout the year. Thoughtful planning and careful consideration of various trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants can provide year round garden interest.
This article originally appeared in the April 5, 1996 issue, pp. 1996 issue, pp. 46-47.