Brightening the Winter Landscape with Bold Bark & Colorful Conifers . . .

Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) in a Sea of Green Conifers â“’ 2013 Michaela Medina Harlow - thegardenerseden.comA Shot of Luminous Color in the Wintry Landscape: Cornus sericea Lights Up the Entry Garden in January

It’s easy to create a colorful garden in June, but can beds and borders still be bright in January? Of course! While undoubtably more subdued than midsummer, a midwinter landscape can include a complex variety of hues. When perennials are fast asleep beneath snow and deciduous trees and shrubs stand skeletal in the wind, the winter landscape relies upon broadleaf evergreens, conifers and the pigment-rich bark of deciduous woody plants for color. Individually, these trees and shrubs add tremendous interest to the winter garden, but when used together, even more dramatic results are possible. I like to play green, blue, rust and gold hues of conifers against one another, and in combination with the colorful red, yellow, orange and multicolored bark of deciduous trees and shrubs to enhance their impact.

Microbiota decussata (Siberian cypress) with a Dusting of Snow â“’ 2013 michaela medina:thegardenerseden.comSiberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata) is a Long-Standing Favorite. Form, Texture & Four-Season Color: This Gem Has it All! Shown Here is a Section of a Mass Planting of Microbiota in My Own Garden. Notice How the Background of Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Brings Out the Rust-Red Color of the Siberian Cypress. Proper Pruning of Both Plants is Critical to Keep the Edges Feathery and Light.

Some of my favorite trees and shrubs for colorful, stand-out bark include red osier and red/yellow twig dogwood (Cornus sericea and Cornus alba, respectively), willow (Salix), striped maple (Acer pennsylvanica), paperbark maple (Acer griseum), and paper birch and river birch (Betula papyrifera and Betula nigra, respectively). When it comes to conifers —although I have a tough time choosing— I admit a soft-spot for feathery Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), colorful Siberian cypress (Microbiota decussata) and brilliantly hued false cypress (Chamaecyparis), as well as textural Juniperus (juniper) of all species and colors. I’m also quite fond of the silver-blue spruce clan, spiky, multicolored pines and dramatic, two-toned firs.

Betula papyrifera with Juniperus in snow â“’ 2013 michaela - thegardenerseden.comThe Peeling, White Bark of North American Native Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) Creates Beautiful, Peachy-Cream Vertical Lines in the Landscape. When Played Against Green Conifers, the Effect is Quite Stunning on a Winter’s Day.

Never one for wrapping, tenting or coddling woody plants, I demand a great deal from all of the trees and shrubs in my own landscape, as well as in the gardens I design for others. In New England, deciduous trees are bare for nearly half  the year. So when designing gardens for my clients, four season beauty is always a top priority. In addition to color, many deciduous trees offer textural interest with exfoliating and curling bark. These elements add wonderful dimension to the landscape, even during winter dormancy. When choosing and positioning woody plants in the landscape, consider placing shrubs and trees with colorful or exfoliating bark in front of or near conifers with complementary and contrasting hues to bring out the best in both. If space allows, plant in masse for greatest impact, and combine with a foreground or side accent of sturdy, ornamental grasses (such as Miscanthus) for buff and blond hues and softness. For more about textural bark, click back to my previous post on the subject, here.

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2 Replies to “Brightening the Winter Landscape with Bold Bark & Colorful Conifers . . .”

  1. Lynda

    One of the things lacking on my property is evergreens. When winter comes it is positively bleak here. I need to work on this. Thanks for the inspiration!

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