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
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
'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.
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.
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).
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).
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
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).