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, High Country Gardens Chief Horticulturist

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. White Agave havardiana, Agave havardiana, Havard's Century Plant

    Agave havardiana (Havard's Century Plant) grows to an imposing size (30" tall x 36" wide) at maturity! Native to the Glass Mountains of west Texas, this succulent has proven itself t...

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    Havard's Century Plant (Agave) Havard's Century Plant Agave havardiana (Glass Mts, TX Form)
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $12.99 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Agave havardiana (Havard's Century Plant) grows to an imposing size (30" tall x 36" wide) at maturity! Native to the Glass Mountains of west Texas, this succulent has proven itself to be very cold-hardy. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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  2. White Agave parryi, Agave parryi, Parry's Century Plant, Flagstaff form

    18" tall x 18-30" wide. High Country's form of Agave parryi comes from the high cold desert near Flagstaff, Arizona. It is exceptionally cold hardy with thick silver-gray leaves that...

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    Parry's Century Plant (Agave) Parry's Century Plant Agave parryi (Flagstaff Form)
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $12.99 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    18" tall x 18-30" wide. High Country's form of Agave parryi comes from the high cold desert near Flagstaff, Arizona. It is exceptionally cold hardy with thick silver-gray leaves that grow to form a large sized rosette when mature. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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  3. Red Echinocereus triglochidiatus White Sands, Echinocereus triglochidiatus ‘White Sands’, White Sands Giant Claret Cup Cactus

    15-24" x 18-24" wide. Echinocereus triglochidiatus ('White Sands' Claret Cup Cactus) is without a doubt the fastest, largest and most spectacular of any claret cup cactus. The robust...

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    White Sands Giant Claret Cup Cactus (Echinocereus) White Sands Giant Claret Cup Cactus Echinocereus triglochidiatus White Sands
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $12.99 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 2" Pot
    15-24" x 18-24" wide. Echinocereus triglochidiatus ('White Sands' Claret Cup Cactus) is without a doubt the fastest, largest and most spectacular of any claret cup cactus. The robust, stoutly-spined stems are topped with glowing scarlet flowers in late spring and can grow to a height of 3 feet under favorable conditions. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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  4. Blue Spruce Stonecrop, Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce'

    'Blue Spruce' Creeping Sedum (Sedum reflexum) is a standout among low-maintenance Sedums. This easy-to-grow and eye-catching features succulent blue-green foliage, much like little s...

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    Blue Spruce Sedum Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum reflexum Blue Spruce
    As low as $7.99 Sale $7.59
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    'Blue Spruce' Creeping Sedum (Sedum reflexum) is a standout among low-maintenance Sedums. This easy-to-grow and eye-catching features succulent blue-green foliage, much like little spruce needles! A pollinator favorite, it is covered with small star-shaped yellow flowers in summer for over a month. A great evergreen groundcover where low maintenance, drought-tolerant, deer-and-rabbit-resistant plantings are desired.
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Hesperaloe, Echinocereus, Agave, and other cold-hardy cacti and succulents take center stage in David Salman's Santa Fe Garden in winter garden.Hesperaloe, Echinocereus, Agave, and other cold-hardy cacti and succulents take center stage in David Salman's Santa Fe Garden in winter garden.
Hesperaloe, Echinocereus, Agave, and other cold-hardy cacti and succulents take center stage in David Salman's Santa Fe Garden in winter garden.
'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 Gramma 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 Gramma 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 Gramma 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. Red Achillea millefolium Red Velvet, Red Velvet Yarrow

    Red Velvet is one of the best with it deep rose-red, flat-topped flower heads that hold their color. Deep green, fine textured foliage, this yarrow is sure to attract butterflies whe...

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    Red Velvet Yarrow Red Velvet Yarrow Achillea millefolium Red Velvet
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $10.99 Sale $10.44
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Red Velvet is one of the best with it deep rose-red, flat-topped flower heads that hold their color. Deep green, fine textured foliage, this yarrow is sure to attract butterflies wherever it's planted. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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  2. Pink Teucrium aroanium, Teucrium aroanium, Gray Creeping Germander

    2-3" tall x 18-24" wide. Gray creeping germander blooms with fragrant honey scented pink flowers in summer that are held over equally fragrant thin linear gray leaves. The plant is ...

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    Gray Creeping Germander (Teucrium) Gray Creeping Germander Teucrium aroanium
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $8.99 Sale $8.54
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    2-3" tall x 18-24" wide. Gray creeping germander blooms with fragrant honey scented pink flowers in summer that are held over equally fragrant thin linear gray leaves. The plant is an excellent small scale groundcover for hot, sunny sites in well drained soil. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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  3. Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition, Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass

    Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition PP#22,048) is a native ornamental grass with a completely new look. The horizontal eyelash-like chartreuse flower...

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    Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition PP#22,048
    As low as $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot

    Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition PP#22,048) is a native ornamental grass with a completely new look. The horizontal eyelash-like chartreuse flowers appear in mid-summer and age to blonde seed heads by fall. They are held on the plant right through the winter to provide many months of interest. 2011 Plant of The Year

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  4. Arenaria Wallowa Mountains (Desert Moss) Plant Select Photo

    Arenaria is a great groundcover plant with tiny bright green evergreen leaves. Looks great as a crack filler between flagstone and paving stones. Images courtesy of Plant Select. Dr...

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    Wallowa Mountains Sandwort (Arenaria) Wallowa Mountains Mossy Sandwort Arenaria Wallowa Mountains
    As low as $8.99 Sale $8.09
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Arenaria is a great groundcover plant with tiny bright green evergreen leaves. Looks great as a crack filler between flagstone and paving stones. Images courtesy of Plant Select. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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