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. 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 $8.99 Sale $7.19
    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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  2. Cape Blanco Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco'

    'Cape Blanco' Creeping Sedum (Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco') is sheer elegance with unusual pewter, powder-blue succulent foliage in a well-behaved groundcover. Clusters of tiny...

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    Cape Blanco Sedum Cape Blanco Stonecrop Sedum spathulifolium Cape Blanco
    As low as $7.99 Sale $6.39
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    'Cape Blanco' Creeping Sedum (Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco') is sheer elegance with unusual pewter, powder-blue succulent foliage in a well-behaved groundcover. Clusters of tiny yellow flowers cover the plant in summer. Cape Blanco is an award-winning standout. Easy-to-grow and pollinator-friendly this North American native is a must-have!
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  3. Angelina Stonecrop, Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'

    Fast-growing, and colorful, 'Angelina' Creeping Sedum (Sedum rupestre) adds a dazzling highlight with colors from chartreuse to golden yellow. Easy to grow, it will spread quickly as...

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    Angelina Sedum Angelina Stonecrop Sedum rupestre Angelina
    As low as $7.99 Sale $6.39
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Fast-growing, and colorful, 'Angelina' Creeping Sedum (Sedum rupestre) adds a dazzling highlight with colors from chartreuse to golden yellow. Easy to grow, it will spread quickly as a drought-tolerant groundcover. Bright yellow star-like flowers bloom in summer and foliage turns golden-orange in autumn. A great pick for rock gardens, dry borders, and large expanses of ground that need planting.
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  4. SunSparkler® Sedum Collection

    Our SunSparkler® Sedum Collection is a trio of dramatic, high-impact Sedums that will pick up any garden setting with easy-care fun. A rich color palette includes grey-green foliage...

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    SunSparkler® Sedum Collection SunSparkler® Sedum Collection
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $29.97 Sale $26.97
    Per Collection of 3
    Our SunSparkler® Sedum Collection is a trio of dramatic, high-impact Sedums that will pick up any garden setting with easy-care fun. A rich color palette includes grey-green foliage with burgundy flowers, bi-color lime green foliage, and blazing ruby-red petals edged in bright pink. A favorite of birds and pollinators, Sedum will naturalize to create drought-tolerant mats of colorful foliage and flowers. Collection of 3 plants.
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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 20%
    $10.99 Sale $8.79
    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 20%
    $8.99 Sale $7.19
    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 $6.99 Sale $5.59
    Per Plant - 2.5" 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. Achillea filipendulina Coronation Gold Yarrow

    36" tall x 24" wide. Coronation Gold is a vigorous tall growing yarrow with large flat deep golden-yellow flower heads. This non-reseeding variety blooms all summer and thrives with...

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    Coronation Gold Yarrow Coronation Gold Yarrow Achillea filipendulina Coronation Gold
    Sale Price I Save 20%
    $9.99 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    36" tall x 24" wide. Coronation Gold is a vigorous tall growing yarrow with large flat deep golden-yellow flower heads. This non-reseeding variety blooms all summer and thrives with heat and sun in any soil including clay. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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