Design Consideration – Year-Round Interest

This time of year when we are, quite frankly, tired of a somewhat barren landscape, it is the opportune time to consider adding some plants that perform admirably throughout the year.  The best are those that exhibit desirable features that differ with the changing seasons.  Clearly, evergreens provide year-round interest, and your landscape should include many of them, interspersed with your deciduous plantings that shed their leaves and go to sleep in the winter.  However, evergreens tend to be somewhat static.  There are exceptions, such as Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo), an evergreen shrub that produces delicate white flowers in early summer, sports leaves that turn brilliant shades of red in fall, winter, spring, and produces incredible clusters of vivid red berries throughout the winter that are great to bring indoors for holiday decoration.

But, evergreens aside, deciduous plants tend to provide more variety throughout the year.  On a larger scale, deciduous trees such as Lagerstroemia, or Crapemyrtle (varieties like ‘Natchez’), Betula nigra (River Birch), Cornus kousa (Kousa/Chinese Dogwood), Stewartia pseudocamellia (Japanese Stewartia), and Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple) exhibit great winter interest with lovely ornamental bark (exfoliating or peeling).  Many people direct landscape lighting on these to highlight their architectural interest in the winter. Shrubs with this characteristic include Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea) and Physocarpus opulifolius (Ninebark). If interesting bark is not your thing, what about winter flowers?  Hamemelis x intermedia (Witchhazel hybrid) is a small tree that does well in the shady understory (a native plant, as well, which means, among other things, it is very easy to grow and resistant to problems) blooming right along with the snow towards the end of winter.  There are varieties that produce primarily warm-toned flowers in either in yellow, orange or red, and the flower shape is very unique.  As an added bonus, these plants have a beautiful dense textured leaf, which produces vivid fall coloring.

You’d be remiss if your garden did not include Hellebores orientalis (Lenten Rose), an evergreen perennial, which begins its very long blooming period in February.  There are numerous varieties and colors, and its deep green interesting foliage lingers throughout the year once the blooms have diminished.  An added bonus:  the deer do not like this plant.  This is just a sprinkling of the different categories of plants that can provide interest in your landscape throughout the year – more than earning their keep.