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12 Ways to Create Winter Interest

A winter garden does not have to lack interest. With the right plants, ornaments, and design, your winter garden can still function as a sanctuary from the world that is both engaging and beautiful, regardless of the time of year. The following tips will help you pull in the right elements to make your winter garden wonderful.


1. Rely on plants with winter flowers

Hellebores (Helleborus spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9)

Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum, Zones 6–9)

Witch hazels (Hamamelis spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9)

Jelena witch hazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’, Zones 5–8) is a large shrub that covers itself with fragrant, golden spider blooms in late winter and early spring.


2. Feature winter berries

Heavenly bamboos (Nandina domestica and cvs., Zones 6–9)

Japanese laurels (Aucuba japonica and cvs., Zones 6–10)

Viburnums (Viburnum spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9)

Winterberries (Ilex verticillata and cvs., Zones 5–8)

Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Willowwood’.


3. Include plants with interesting leaves

Italian arum (Arum italicum, Zones 6–9)

Skimmias (Skimmia spp. and cvs., Zones 6–9)

Sweet boxes (Sarcococca spp. and cvs., Zones 6–9)

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna


4. Emphasize intriguing bark

Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica and cvs., Zones 7–9)

Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia and cvs., Zones 5–9)

Paperbark maple (Acer griseum, Zones 4–8)

Paper-thin remains of oakleaf hydrangea gather fresh fallen flakes.


5. Highlight unusual natural branch structure

Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, Zones 3–9)

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum and cvs., Zones 6–8)

Red-twigged or yellow-twigged dogwoods (Cornus stolonifera and cvs., Zones 2–8)


6. Attract birds by leaving seed heads of perennials

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9)

Coneflowers (Echinacea spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9)

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Zones 3–10)

Isn’t sedum lovely in the winter?


7. Prune evergreens into compelling shapes



8. Invite motion with plants such as grasses


9. Create a sensory splash with chimes, mirrors, and pinwheels


10. Showcase large garden ornaments such as planted pots and sculptures


11. Use interesting hardscape elements such as fences, gateways, and trellises


12. Increase impact with multilevel patios or terraces

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