Cooler weather makes fall planting ideal. Fresh nights, less drought, and summer-warmed earth offer perfect conditions for a newly planted shrub to get well-rooted before the winter. Garden centres offer a wide selection of shrubs in early fall, often at discounted prices. Local stores carry plants that are tested for your region’s climate. Plant shrubs well before the snow arrives and provide your new shrub with transplant fertilizer and a top dressing of compost.
Consider form, colour and texture when you are shopping for new shrubs for winter gardens. A well-planned garden will offer visual vignettes that tempt the eye with groupings of complementary colours.
Form refers to the architectural interest or unique shape offered by your shrubs. Sculptural and coloured plants can be highlighted using outdoor spotlights or solar lanterns. The interplay of shadow and light, and colour against the stark white of glistening snow offers visual impact day or night.
Colour and texture together create visual interest. Make use of the wide range of greens and look for additional colour through berries and twigs. The key to colour and texture is creative combination and contrast. Varying the height of shrubs will help build layers of colour and textures. Staging differing colours from short to taller shrub will entice the eye. The depth of the snow in the garden is a determining factor of what shrubs to choose. Build your winter colour from the snow-level up, and vary what you use to draw colour interest.
Stems and Bark:
· Yellow/Red Stem Dogwood: The new-growth twigs of dogwoods offer the greatest colour contrasts when planted as a grouping with both red and yellow stems. These are hardy, wide spreading shrubs that offer better colour when pruned severely after flowering each spring.
· Japanese Maples: Dwarf varieties of this tree offer beautiful form and colourful twigs to a winterscape.
· Oakleaf Hydrangea: A year-round performer, this shrub has a cinnamon-tinged peeling bark.
· Birch: This delicate tree offers stunning white bark and delicate shadows to your landscape. While this is taller than shrub height, this tree is a winter gardener’s favourite.
· Contorted Hazelnut: Hardy in many Canadian urban zones, this shrub is a focal point for its shape and its early spring “catkins”.
· Euonymus: Colours can range from glossy green, to variegated emerald/white and emerald/gold leaves that take on a rosy blush in winter. Try euonymus as a standard, against a wall as a climber, or as a clipped bush.
· Boxwood: A favourite structural plant, boxwood has small, oval dark green leaves that look lush all winter.
· Ivy: Offering colour and structure as it climbs walls or arbours, cold-tolerant ivies will remain green in winter as long as they are protected from the wind.
· Holly: Look for winter-hardy varieties that hold their foliage. In order to guarantee berries, ensure you purchase both male and female plants.
While tall pine, spruce and fir offer a lush backdrop to a garden in winter, smaller conifers offer a wide variety of colour and texture and can be planted almost anywhere.
· Yew: With its dense growth and flat needles, yew offers natural beauty of red berries and bright green foliage.
· Hemlock: This hardy native plant carries soft, short needles in mid-tone green.
· Cedar: Cedar’s feathery tips are available in varied shapes (such as pyramids, low spreaders, globes and columns), colours and textures. Look for colours from blue to yellow-gold to chartreuse and varieties with decorative cones.
· Junipers: Available in low-growing, mid-height and tall columns, junipers offer dense, bright colours from silver blue to green. These are colourful and versatile plants that often offer icy coloured berries.
· Barberries: Available in dwarf varieties, barberries are compact evergreen shrubs offering glossy green leaves and pinky to red berries in winter.
· Bayberries: Resilient in poor soils, the bayberry offers scented, muted-blue berries.
· Highbush Cranberry: A hardy, native bush providing white flowers in summer and bright red berries in winter.
· Cotoneaster: This hardy spreading shrub with glossy green leaves and red berries can range from low growing to tall.
· Winterberry: This tall, deciduous-holly shrub carries orange berries through the winter months. Consider adding both male and female plants, as you need both in order to produce berries.
· Roses: Hardy shrub roses provide bright and cheerful rose hips.
Use this list a starting point for exploring winter’s brighter palette. Shrubs that offer colour and shape in winter can transform your garden from a simple blanket of white to your very own winter wonderland.