Captivating Combinations for Winter

leafless Japanese maple
A dancer suspended in motion. The sinuous shape of a leafless Japanese maple, outlined in ice, lends drama to a still, snow-blanketed garden. Photo: Susan Roth

Winter can be a difficult time of year for many gardeners. The blooms of summer have come and gone, fall foliage has faded, and some of us are tired after a long season of toiling. The desire to simply call it quits and accept the reality of a bleak landscape for the coming months can be undeniable.

However, there are many easy ways to create winter interest in the garden. You can embrace the textured look of seed heads and grasses, pack in conifers of all shapes and sizes, or simply enjoy the look of ice and snow on anything still standing. To look at winter gardening in a whole new light, we have compiled a collection of captivating winter combinations. We hope you’ll be inspired to never think of winter as dull again.


Miss Willmott's ghost
Photo: Piet Oudolf

1. Miss Willmott’s ghost (Eryngium giganteum, Zones 5–8)

2. Purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea, Zones 5–9)

Designed by Piet Oudolf


European cranberry bush
Photo: Allan Mandell

1. Colorado spruce (Picea pungens ‘Bakeri’, Zones 3–8)

2. European cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Compactum’, Zones 4–8)

3. Diabolo ninebark® (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’, Zones 3–7)

Designed by Tom Vetter in Portland, Oregon


Autumn Joy sedum
Photo: Susan Roth

1. ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus (Miscanthus sinesis ‘Morning Light’, Zones 6–9)

2. Autumn Joy sedum (Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’, Zones 3–11)

3. Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens, Zones 4–9)

Designed by Susan Roth in her garden in Stony Brook, New York


Big Sky™ Summer Sky coneflower
Photo: Marianne Folling/

1. Big Sky™ Summer Sky coneflower (Echinacea ‘Katie Saul’, Zones 4–9)

2. Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha, Zones 4–9)

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil



Sticky Jerusalem sage
Photo: Jo Whitworth/GAP Photos

1. Sticky Jerusalem sage (Phlomis russeliana, Zones 3–9)

2. Giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea, Zones 8–11)

Conditions: Full sun; fertile, well-drained soil

Designed by Tom Stuart-Smith


‘Magnus’ coneflower
Photo: Whistling Gardens

1. ‘Magnus’ coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Zones 3–9)

2. ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, Zones 5–9)

3. Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Zones 4–8)

Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

Designed by Darren Heimbecker for Whistling Gardens in Wilsonville, Ontario


Photo: Richard Bloom/GAP Photos

1. Coneflower (Echinacea cv., Zones 3–8)

2. ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’, Zones 5–9)

3. Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis, Zones 3–9)

Conditions: Full sun; dry to average, well-drained soil

Designed by Piet Oudolf for the Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk, UK

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