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Mid-Atlantic Regional Reports

Plants With Great Bones Provide Winter Interest

Plan for a winter garden of faded perennials that look beautiful covered in snow or frost

The combination above features purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea, Zones 3–9) in front of ‘Dewey Blue’ switch grass (Panicum amarum ‘Dewey Blue, Zones 3–9). Photo: Nancy J. Ondra

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, planting for winter interest in a perennial garden or mixed border is a bit of a gamble. Perennials with persistent foliage such as heucheras (Heuchera spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9) and hellebores (Helleborus spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9) can provide an abundance of color and texture through a mild winter with minimal amounts of the white stuff. However, a single snowfall can cover them up for weeks or months. For a more dependable presence, we need to think above ground level too, with perennial stems and seed heads. Developing an appreciation for perennial “skeletons”—their winter stems, lingering leaves, and dried seed heads—gives you many ways to enjoy your garden long after the last flowers fade.

It’s easy to find lists and photos of perennials that have a reputation for winter interest, but keep in mind that they’re not all tough enough to stand up to our…

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