Winter Gardening

You are probably thinking, winter gardening, how can that happen when everything is frozen?  Well, I am talking about sitting down with a cup of hot tea, your favorite throw and the bevy of seed catalogs that are about to arrive.  But before you get all nestled in, look out your windows to survey your winter landscape.  Is anything missing? Are there any areas that could use some color, texture or some other interest for your winter garden?  Grab a pen and paper and make note of these areas as a reminder while you are flipping the pages of those catalogs.

Evergreens are one of my favorite “winter interest” plants.  Trees and shrubs come in a variety of sizes, colors, shapes and textures.  Colors can range from greens to blues to even golds.  Not only do they provide a stark contrast to the abundant snow, but they also provide shelter for our feathered friends.

You might also consider shrubs that can add some great color to the white winter landscape.  Some that have colored bark and/or berries are red and yellow twig dogwood, high bush cranberry, nannyberry, cotoneaster and holly.  Fruit bearing trees and shrubs not only fill the “winter interest” color category, they also provide food for the many birds and wildlife that winter here.  Native to Indiana are American cranberry bush, elderberry and winterberry holly.

Trees that have attractive bark are another alternative to consider.  The European white birch comes to mind, but can be a short-lived tree as it is susceptible to damage by the bronze birch borer and leaf miners.  Some other alternatives are river birch or paper bark maple.  Look for disease and pest resistant varieties.

Interesting branch structure can be very cool.  The twisted corkscrew-like branches of Harry Lauder’s walking stick make a great focal point, not just in the winter, but all season long.  The curly twig willow will give you some great branch structure but you must be mindful not to plant it near a septic system because of its’ aggressive root system.

When making your selection of course keep in mind the plants mature size and always check its’ hardiness rating.  In our area you will want to select plants that are rated for zone 5.   You might keep in mind that some of the branches from the bushes I have mentioned also make for great decorating in the winter when combined with assorted evergreens and placed in window boxes and outdoor containers.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online.  The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.