Spruce up your winter landscape
December 12, 2017
Much of my gardening life for most of the year is about doing: fertilizing, mowing, watering, raking, digging, transplanting and pruning. Now, with winter upon us, I have more of a chance to reflect on how the landscape actually looks as I sit in a sunny window watching the birds, the sun rise or set, the deer wandering through, or the weather blowing clouds around. I noticed that I haven't incorporated much of winter interest as far as ornamental plant materials are concerned.
Just because I spend much less time outdoors in the winter, doesn't mean I should neglect my outdoor visual pleasures. I do spend a lot of time near windows. Of course, I have the skeletal shape of the trees, particularly those that are well-groomed, to throw shadows, to reach for the sky or provide perches for the birds. The lush green of the incense cedars offers restful color in an otherwise bland background. The blue spruces add texture and a rich gray-blue hue at various spots on the property. The rock borders are now prominent without the summertime flowers to conceal them. The gifts of the birds include dropped Oregon grape berries throughout the yard that have grown into nice-sized shrubs. Their evergreen leaves, touched with a hint of red, hold their color the entire season.
Unfortunately, though, I have overlooked adding plants with winter appeal to my landscape design. While the multitude of willows along the creek have reddish stems, I could add red twig dogwoods for branches with deeper red tones closer to the house. Or, I could achieve a spot of yellow with the yellow twig dogwood. There are many plants that have fruit that remain on the plant most of the winter such as pyracantha, also known as firethorn, with its red, orange or yellow berries. Various hollies also have berries and may do well here in some more protected locations. However, my site is too exposed to strong winds and drying winter sun for their success.
Grasses, large or small, add not only sculptural components, but also elements of sound as the wind blows through their upright stems. Their dried flower stalks range from feathery plumes to sprays of seed pods, which are particularly attractive with a dusting of snow.
Take a moment and look around your yard. Are there focal areas outside your favorite window that might delight you with an added winter interest plant?
JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.