When choosing winter plants it is important to consider their placement. Place them near doorways, walkways and windows, where you can see them from your home. If you have a hot tub or wood shed, place them in close proximity. Winter interest plants are grown for flowers, berries and for their attractive bark. Winter berries will also increase the amount of birds and wildlife that visit your garden.
Trees for Winter
Smaller trees are best because they can be closer to the house. Witch-hazel (Hamamelis) is a vase shaped winter blooming tree. The unusual red, orange or yellow blooms line the branches like little confetti stars. Each witch-hazel variety will bloom at a slightly different time. Many trees are noted for their interesting winter bark. The coral bark maple (Acer palmatum sango-kaku) has vivid red bark and the paper bark maple (Acer griseum) has bark that peels like cellophane. The white bark of Himalayan birch (Betula jacquemontii) stands out against the winter sky and compliments the red barked plants well. Crape myrtles (Langerstromea) and madrone (Arbutus) also have colorful peeling bark.
Shrubs for Winter
Berries are some of the most colorful features in winter. Beautyberry (Callicarpa) really stands out with its bright purple berries. There is also a white beautyberry. Some varieties of firethorn (Pyracantha) hold their orange or red berries throughout the winter. The pink dawn viburnum (Viburnum bodnantense) has pink blooms all winter long. The redtwig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) and yellowtwig dogwood (Cornus flaviramea) are shrubs that provide vivid colored twigs once the weather drops. Willow shrubs (Salix) bred for their colored twigs are great for wet areas. Some willow shrubs have twisted twigs. Fragrance is also important in winter. Sweet box (Sarcococca confusa) is a small evergreen shrub that exudes intense perfume when it blooms in February. Winter daphne (Daphne odora) is very well known for its colorful fragrant pink or white winter flowers. Variegated daphne (Daphne odora "Aureo-Marginata") also lights up the winter garden with its green and white foliage.
Perennials for Winter
The hellebores are the queens of winter bloom. They have interesting evergreen leaves and clusters of cup shaped winter flowers.The most common is the lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) in shades of purple and white. Many of the varieties have burgundy speckles inside. The pure white blooms of Christmas rose (Helleborus nigra) contrasts nicely with its very deep green foliage. There are many other wonderful hellebores to add a touch of the exotic to the winter garden. Many bulbs listed as spring bloomers actually bloom in late winter. Winter crocus, snowdrop and iris reticulata are just a few. Violets, primrose and bergenia bloom well before most spring flowering plants.
Count on evergreen plants to hold together the winter garden. Evergreen trees and shrubs create a backdrop for the other plants. Conifers create habitat for birds and develop attractive cones. Perennial beds can be very bare without some structure. Evergreen ferns are good choices to use as compliment plants to blooming perennials.