Plant for Winter Colour

Robin snacking on staghorn sumac seeds

Your yard can be beautiful and colourful even in winter. Planning your garden with winter in mind ensures year-round beauty and enjoyment. Watching birds and other wildlife dip and dash through the winter wonderland you’ve created will make those short cold days a little more fun.

To start, choose differently sized trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses to create visual delight. Trees with monochromatic bark, like paper birch, add depth, while the bright red twigs of red osier dogwood add a shock of colour. The velvety red fruit of staghorn sumacs and dried rosehips of smooth roses shine like rubies in the snow. They also feed birds like cedar waxwings, cardinals and a few straggling robins throughout food-scarce winter months.

Leaving wildflowers and long grasses standing creates aesthetic appeal and reduces fall maintenance. Seed heads poking above the snow offer a treat for birds such as American goldfinch, while hollow stems house sleeping native bees waiting for the warm spring sun. 

Snow-draped evergreens are cozy and classic. Mix different evergreen trees like cedar, pine or balsam fir. They add colour and texture while providing shelter for birds. Allow virgin’s bower vine to climb up these trees. Its fluffy snow-like seed heads will stand out against the dark green backdrop.

Some groundcovers and vines like wild strawberry, sharp-lobed hepatica and partridge-berry keep their leaves through winter. They’ll poke through light snow to offer a little pop of colour that will remind you of the warmer, brighter days ahead.

Photo: Robin snacking on staghorn sumac seeds CC BY-NC 2.0 Putneypics

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