By Kerry Ann Mendez
Living in the Northeast has many perks, but year-round gardening is not one of them. Most of us stare at bleak winter landscapes for five, if not six, months of the year.
But that’s no reason to despair when the gardens are buried under snow. By making some simple wardrobe adjustments, you can have a dazzling winter wonderland that is both beautiful and less work than summer gardens. Here are some colorful ideas.
• Plant flowering shrubs and trees with attractive bark. Deciduous red and yellow twig dogwoods have striking bark that glows against snow. Arctic Fire Dogwood is a particularly showy cultivar with stems that are orangey-red at the base and yellow at the tips. To keep dogwood stems a vibrant color, prune the oldest stems in late winter or early spring. Stems older than three years lose their brilliance. Peeling (exfoliating) bark can be another focal point. Birch trees are prized for this feature. For those with smaller spaces, there are dwarf birches under 12 feet like Little King. Paperbark Maples are also stunning and top out around 20 feet. Flowering shrubs with peeling bark include Ninebarks (Physocarpus), Oakleaf Hydrangea and Climbing Hydrangea.
• Evergreen flowering shrubs and conifers play an important role in winter landscapes. Rhododendrons, mountain laurel (Kalmia) and Japanese Andromeda (Pieris) are popular spring flowering shrubs. Semi-evergreen flowering shrubs (they don’t shed all of their leaves) include Daphne “Carol Mackie” and Abelia. Boxwood and Inkberry make zippy green structures and are also deer resistant. And the world of conifers — with its vast range of plant sizes, as well as needle colors and shapes — is extraordinary. A few of my favorites are Birds Nest Spruce, False Cypress (Chamaecypairs), Russian Cypress (Microbiota) and dwarf Mugo pine and blue spruces (Picea). Be careful when selecting blue spruces, however, as mature sizes range from 2 to 3 feet (Glauca Globosa) to “Compacta” Colorado Blue (4 to 5 feet) to the mighty Colorado Blue, topping off at 30 to 60 feet. Continue reading