Gardening and Living in Grand Style
Adding winter interest to your landscape…
by Michael Johnson, Utah State University Extension Agent, Grand County
Jan 09, 2014 | 1800 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I was visiting a friend recently and remarking on what an incredible view he had of the mountains and red rocks and how especially this time of year it had that extra sparkle with the snow perched hither and yon.

Well, we don’t all have that type of spectacular view, and at times during the winter I know we look out upon our landscapes and dream of what they will look like once spring brings flowers bursting forth and then the unfurling of the rich green leaves of our plants.

Having been involved with horticulture for a long time, I know there is a never-ending search for ways to increase the visual interest in gardens and landscapes. One way to do this that, I believe, is often overlooked involves adding interest to the winter landscape. This can be done in a variety of ways, with plants of varying colors, those with berries and seed pods, bark with interesting textures and colors, and also with hardscapes and even furniture.

What first comes to mind involves plants with colorful foliage, which, for winter, means evergreens, but not necessarily those with green foliage. Juniperus chinensis or Chinese junipers are a standard in the landscaping industry, and many of its cultivars – plants that have been selected for certain characteristics – have blue and even yellow foliage that looks great year round. There are also many cultivars of the Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum), which has bluish foliage. Other plants that work well in our landscapes are yuccas such as the Yucca filamentosa “Golden Sword,” with yellow leaves that have a green edge, and Yucca filamentosa “Color Guard,” which has leaves with a central stripe of bright yellow, and in cool weather can have margins with a pinkish cast.

Other possibilities for plants with winter interest are those with fruit or seed pods that can persist or last into the winter. There is a nice small tree Crataegus crusgalli var. inermis or thornless cockspur hawthorn, which has red fruit. Then there are shrubs such as the Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii with red berries, the sea-buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides with orange fruit, the smooth sumac, Rhus glabra cismontane, which has fuzzy maroon fruit, and the silver buffaloberry, Shepherdia argentea, with yellow to orange red berries. Also, if you don’t remove the flowers from a rose, such as the native pink rose Rosa woodsii, they will form nice pretty red rose hips.

There are also plants with bark that have interesting textures or colors. There are some Cornus species with red and even yellow bark, but many of those would take special care in our area. However, there are some we should consider, such as the amur maackia, Maackia amurensis, with its amber, bronze- to copper-colored bark. As it matures it will start to peel or curl. Another is the Japanese red pine, Pinus densiflora, with its orange red bark, which also looks scaly as it ages. A shrub that admittedly takes closer inspection to appreciate is the cliff fendlerbush, Fendlera rupicola, with its reddish young bark which turns gray and scaly or shredded with age.

However, adding color and interest doesn’t stop with plants but can be achieved with items you place or build in your yard, such as arbors, gazebos, and trellises. Or even interesting wood fences, stone walls, water features and strategically placed boulders.

Finally, you might also consider colorful furniture such as a colored metal bench or even some of those brightly colored Adirondack chairs sold in town.

These are just a few suggestions among all that is out there waiting to be considered. So as you are looking through catalogs or online for what you want to plant for spring and summer, consider what you can add so that next winter you have a visual feast in your outdoor winter landscape.

Thought for the day: “The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” —Hanna Rion.

Have an idea you’d like Mike to consider writing about? Want more information about these topics? Call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at

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