Parry's Century Plant or Agave parryi provides evergreen texture and winter interest after snowfallParry's Century Plant or Agave parryi provides evergreen texture and winter interest after snowfall

Garden Design For Winter Interest

By David Salman, Founder of High Country Gardens

Winter is often the forgotten season when it comes to landscaping. I love a beautiful perennial border in the summer for the colors, the flowers, and the interesting foliage and textures. But in winter, when all the perennials have gone dormant and lost their summer glow, the structure of your garden will steal the show – even covered in snow! The Parry's Century Plant (Agave parryi) shown above is a great example of the beauty of evergreen and cold-hardy plants.

Woody trees and shrubs, along with cacti and succulent plants, can provide what is known as the “bones of the garden.” We’re not talking literal bones, but are referring to plants with a year-round presence in the garden.  Structural plants, along with hardscape elements, set the stage for year-round interest, texture, form, and substance. 

Even perennial plants with stiff stems and interesting seed heads, such as Yarrow (Achillea), Sedum, and Coneflowers (Echinacea), can be left standing over the winter. These plants will hold snow and add interesting detail to the winter garden. 

Take a look at some plants from David's garden, and High Country Gardens customers' gardens, after winter frost and snowfall. You'll see that winter doesn't have to mean a lackluster landscape. A garden with four-season beauty is possible!

by High Country Gardens

Bronze iguana covered in snow.

Winter is often the forgotten season when it comes to landscaping. I love a beautiful perennial border in the summer; the colors, the flowers, the interesting foliage and textures. But in winter, when all the perennials have gone dormant and  lost their summer glow, there is not much to look at and enjoy. Woody trees and shrubs along with cacti and succulent plants can provide what is known as the “bones of the garden.” We’re not talking literal bones, but are referring to plants with a year round presence in the garden.  These plants, along with hardscape elements, provide the structure around which a landscape can be planted to have year round interest, texture, form and substance.

Landscape covered by snow.
Landscape covered by snow.

It is after a winter snow that the “bones” take center stage, providing a new view, and new perspective, when we see leaves and branches covered in white, peeking out from under a chilly blanket left behind by a quick moving late winter storm. Here are some photos from my front yard showing how xeric cacti and succulents like Agave, Yucca and Opuntia mixed in with the structural grace of a weeping ‘Mary Potter’ flowering crabapple, catch the snow with sublime beauty.

Snow on a bush.
Yucca neomexicana.
  1. SunSparkler® Wildfire Stonecrop, Sedum 'Wildfire'

    Sedum rupestre ‚SunSparkler® Wildfire‚ PP#28621 (Stonecrop) blazes with ruby red petals edged in hot pink. Late summer brings clusters of long-blooming pink flowers. It&...

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    SunSparkler® Wildfire Sedum SunSparkler® Wildfire Sedum Sedum 'Wildfire' PP#28,621
    As low as $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Sedum rupestre 'SunSparkler® Wildfire' PP#28621 (Stonecrop) blazes with ruby red petals edged in hot pink. Late summer brings clusters of long-blooming pink flowers. It’s an attention-worthy groundcover that will naturalize to fill a sunny, dry area. In fact, the more sun, the brighter the color. A perfect easy-to-grow addition to a rock garden, container, or any sunny spot that needs a water-thrifty color boost. Deer and rabbit resistant.
  2. White Yucca baccata, Yucca baccata, Banana Yucca

    Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata) is a handsome species with rosettes of thick, stout olive-green leaves and big spikes of showy ivory flowers in late spring....

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    Banana Yucca Banana Yucca Yucca baccata
    As low as $14.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata) is a handsome species with rosettes of thick, stout olive-green leaves and big spikes of showy ivory flowers in late spring.
  3. Coral Glow Texas Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora Coral Glow PP#29,626

    This new cultivar of Texas Yucca blooms all summer with six-foot tall spikes of glowing coral-orange flowers. A cross between a yellow and red flowered variety, Hesperaloe parviflora...

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    Coral Glow Texas Yucca (Hesperaloe) Coral Glow Texas Yucca Hesperaloe parviflora Coral Glow PP#29,626
    As low as $14.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    This new cultivar of Texas Yucca blooms all summer with six-foot tall spikes of glowing coral-orange flowers. A cross between a yellow and red flowered variety, Hesperaloe parviflora Coral Glow PP#29,626 has been an outstanding performer.
  4.  Delosperma Alan's Apricot, Alan's Apricot Ice Plant

    The softly shaded apricot and yellow tints of the large flowers of Alan‚s Apricot Ice Plant are a delight and keep the plant in color from late spring into late summer. Delospe...

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    Alan's Apricot Ice Plant Alan's Apricot Ice Plant Delosperma Alan's Apricot PPAF
    As low as $8.99 Sale $8.09
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    The softly shaded apricot and yellow tints of the large flowers of Alan's Apricot Ice Plant are a delight and keep the plant in color from late spring into late summer. Delosperma ‘Alan’s Apricot’ is a cold hardy ice plant 2016 Plant Select® Winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric). 2" tall x 15" wide.
Hesperaloe, Echinocereus, Agave, and other cold-hardy cacti and succulents take center stage in David Salman's Santa Fe garden in winter.Hesperaloe, Echinocereus, Agave, and other cold-hardy cacti and succulents take center stage in David Salman's Santa Fe garden in winter.
Hesperaloe, Echinocereus, Agave, and other cold-hardy cacti and succulents take center stage in David Salman's Santa Fe garden in winter.
'Thin Man' Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) holds snow gracefully and catches the afternoon sun at David Salman's home in New Mexico.'Thin Man' Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) holds snow gracefully and catches the afternoon sun at David Salman's home in New Mexico.
'Thin Man' Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) holds snow gracefully and catches the afternoon sun at David Salman's home in New Mexico.
Snow falls on a Kokopelli sculpture and ornamental grasses in our customer Sarah's garden in Kansas.Snow falls on a Kokopelli sculpture and ornamental grasses in our customer Sarah's garden in Kansas.
Hardscape elements, such as garden sculptures, add an extra layer of visual interest. Snow falls on a Kokopelli sculpture and ornamental grasses in our customer Sarah's garden in Kansas.
The showy seed heads of ornamental grasses, like the unique eyelash-shaped seeds of Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass shown here, provide texture and movement throughout the winter months.The showy seed heads of ornamental grasses, like the unique eyelash-shaped seeds of Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass shown here, provide texture and movement throughout the winter months.
The showy seed heads of ornamental grasses, like the unique eyelash-shaped seeds of Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass shown here, provide texture and movement throughout the winter months.
Ornamental Grasses, stones, and sculpture provide beautiful winter interest in this garden.Ornamental Grasses, stones, and sculpture provide beautiful winter interest in this garden.
Ornamental Grasses, stones, and sculpture provide beautiful winter interest in this garden.

Planting For Winter Interest

When flowers fade, the bones of the architectural forms in your garden take center stage. Be sure to include cold-hardy cacti and succulents, ornamental grasses, trees, and shrubs in your landscape design for year-round beauty. 


  1. Basin Junior Wildrye, Leymus salinus 'Salane', photo courtesy of Perennial Favorites

    Leymus salinus ‚Salane‚ (Basin Junior Wildrye) is a native perennial grass that forms a dense clump of narrow, slivery-green foliage. Subtle pale-yellow seeds emerge abov...

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    Basin Junior Wildrye Basin Junior Wildrye Leymus salinus 'Salane'
    Sale Price I Save 25%
    $14.99 Sale $11.24
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Leymus salinus 'Salane' (Basin Junior Wildrye) is a native perennial grass that forms a dense clump of narrow, slivery-green foliage. Subtle pale-yellow seeds emerge above the foliage on tall, thin spikes and mature to a sandy hue. This drought-tolerant Western native grass and thrives in hot, dry, rocky sites and high elevations.
  2. Lemon Fizz Lavender Cotton, Santolina virens 'Lemon Fizz'

    ‚Lemon Fizz‚ Santolina (Santolina virens) has fine, almost mossy-looking foliage in an eye-catching chartreuse color. The compact mounding foliage is evergreen and produc...

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    Lemon Fizz Santolina Lemon Fizz Lavender Cotton Santolina virens 'Lemon Fizz'
    Sale Price I Save 25%
    $13.99 Sale $10.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    'Lemon Fizz' Santolina (Santolina virens) has fine, almost mossy-looking foliage in an eye-catching chartreuse color. The compact mounding foliage is evergreen and produces bright yellow button-shaped flowers in summer. It thrives in full, hot sun, but demands a sandy, dry growing site once established. It’s a bit cold-tender and is recommended as a container-grown plant for use around the patio when planted away from the West Coast.
  3. Prairie Dropseed Grass, Sporobolus heterolepis

    Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed Grass) is considered to be one of our most ornamental native species. It has graceful, fine-textured foliage with see-through fall seed head...

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    Prairie Dropseed Grass Prairie Dropseed Grass Sporobolus heterolepis
    As low as $13.99 Sale $10.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed Grass) is considered to be one of our most ornamental native species. It has graceful, fine-textured foliage with see-through fall seed heads. An excellent performer in a wide range of conditions and soil types.
  4. Sideoats Grama Grass,  Bouteloua curtipendula

    Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats Grama Grass) is a superb native grass that thrives in hot, dry gardens, where its showy summer flower spikes add grace and texture. Our strain has b...

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    Sideoats Grama Grass Sideoats Grama Grass Bouteloua curtipendula
    Sale Price I Save 25%
    $12.99 Sale $9.74
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats Grama Grass) is a superb native grass that thrives in hot, dry gardens, where its showy summer flower spikes add grace and texture. Our strain has blue foliage that contrasts nicely with the mid-summer tan flowers, which mature to off-white seed heads in early fall. It's a very attractive winter grass with finely tapered, light-catching flower stems.