Ornamental Attributes of a Winter Landscape

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Ornamental Attributes of a Winter Landscape

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

The winter landscape is upon us. Just two more weeks until the winter solstice and the official beginning of winter, but meteorological speaking, winter begins with December. The mild weather so far this season has made foliage and fruit hold well and many of our earliest blooming plants already start to flower!

I like this image of the entrance to the Island Garden now. The light levels are low but there is a rich amount of foliage, fruit and other interest to the scene.  It has also been mild enough to want to sit on the bench and enjoy the scene. The small trees on either side of the bench are Tea Crabapples (Malus hupehensis) loaded with fruit, there are other shrubs with persistent foliage and many perennials and groundcovers with evergreen foliage to help add interest to the scene.


Bright berries add the most color to the gardens now. What could be more warm and invigorating than the brilliant berries of hollies now? These are some of the Winterberry Hollies (Ilex verticillata) along the Dogwood Walk.

These beautiful fruit at the opposite, cool end of the color scale are also lovely now: it’s a Rusty Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum) on the north side of the Rock & Waterfall Garden.

I had to show a yellow-berry to contrast again how the warmer colors are much more vivid in this season. This is a ‘Finch’s Gold’ Possumhaw Holly (Ilex decidua) between the Rock & Waterfall and Perennial Gardens. Yellow sure glows at this season.

With the deciduous trees now bare, their bark becomes center stage in the winter landscape.  I love the exfoliating and shaggy nature of the ‘China Snow’ Peking Lilac (Syringa pekinensis) in the Perennial Garden now. Behind the tree you can see the wonderful winter nature of a maiden grass (Miscanthus).

The gardens grasses literally shine right now but only when back lit. The sun illuminates the seed heads of many of our grasses: Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) in this image along the walkway next to the Chapel.

The Island Garden’s living wall has some of the best foliage now.  Here’s Silver Frost Lavender, Partridge Feather and Winter Savory all decked out for this season.

This has to be one of our more unique fall foliage — it’s the almost blue fall color of Sichuan Deutzia (Deutzia setchuenensis) with contrasting evergreen foliage of Encore(R) Azaleas.  This scene is along the south path into the Rock and Waterfall Garden.


Again, warmer foliage colors now are much more dramatic like this mass of Wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) in the Peach Court of the Heartland Harvest Garden. Wild Strawberries are a very underutilized groundcover and a companion plant to the peach trees. Their foliage is “evergreen” but you can clearly see it turns some rich shades for the winter season.


Evergreen conifers really are structural elements in the garden now but so often they are not utilized to their fullest potential of contrasting textures and shades of green from blue-green to gold-green!  Here’s the tapestry hedge in the Perennial Gardencomprised of three evergreens: Glauca Juniper (Juniperus virginiana ‘Glauca’ – left), Berkman’s Gold Oriental Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis cultivar in bright green but soon will turn gilded in gold with COLD weather, and an ‘Emerald Sentinel’ Juniper (Juniperus virginiana cultivar) with darker green foliage and blue “berries.”


The Conifer Garden off the north end of the Visitor Center also depicts a wonderful array of evergreens in various hues, textures and forms.  Why do people grow standard blah foundation plants and clip them into shapes when they could choose plants like this?  Come check it out for ideas!

The gardens are in their winter garb but no less beautiful. Consider a visit to get ideas for your own winter landscape or just enjoy the subtle beauty of the gardens in this tranquil time of year.