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
    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.
  2. Granita ® Raspberry Ice Plant, Delosperma Granita Raspberry flowers close up

    Granita Raspberry Ice Plant (Delosperma Granita Raspberry) is a hybrid Ice Plant that blooms in late spring with stunning raspberry-red flowers. The plant is very cold hardy with eve...

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    Granita® Raspberry Ice Plant Granita® Raspberry Ice Plant Delosperma Granita® Raspberry
    As low as $8.99 Sale $7.64
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Granita Raspberry Ice Plant (Delosperma Granita Raspberry) is a hybrid Ice Plant that blooms in late spring with stunning raspberry-red flowers. The plant is very cold hardy with evergreen stems and foliage.
  3. Yellow Delosperma nubiginum, Delosperma nubiginum, Hardy Yellow Ice Plant

    2" tall x 24" wide. A large growing groundcover, hardy yellow ice plant is a vigorous, long blooming variety. The attractive bright evergreen foliage turns red in the winter months....

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    Hardy Yellow Ice Plant Hardy Yellow Ice Plant Delosperma nubiginum
    As low as $7.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    2" tall x 24" wide. A large growing groundcover, hardy yellow ice plant is a vigorous, long blooming variety. The attractive bright evergreen foliage turns red in the winter months. An excellent choice for mountain gardens as well as at lower elevations. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  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. Delosperma ...

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    Alan's Apricot Ice Plant Alan's Apricot Ice Plant Delosperma Alan's Apricot PPAF
    As low as $7.99 Sale $7.19
    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 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 15%
    $10.99 Sale $9.34
    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).
  2. Yellow Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum Kanah Creek, Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum, Kannah Creek Sulphur Buckwheat

    Kannah Creek Buckwheat hails from western Colorado. With a showy display of yellow flowers in late spring, the flowers age to shades of orange and rust by late summer, providing mont...

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    Kannah Creek Sulphur Buckwheat Kannah Creek Sulphur Buckwheat Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum Kannah Creek
    $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Kannah Creek Buckwheat hails from western Colorado. With a showy display of yellow flowers in late spring, the flowers age to shades of orange and rust by late summer, providing months of low care color. A 2007 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  3. 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
    $9.99
    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).
  4. New Snow Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea New Snow, Small white flowers on tall upright stems

    New Snow Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) has attractive silver-gray wooly foliage and clusters of tiny white flowers held on top of tall, upright stems. This native plant...

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    New Snow Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis) New Snow Pearly Everlasting Anaphalis margaritacea New Snow
    $10.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    New Snow Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) has attractive silver-gray wooly foliage and clusters of tiny white flowers held on top of tall, upright stems. This native plant is highly attractive to butterflies. Resilient and easy to grow, it’s excellent for use in meadows and perennial pollinator-friendly gardens with dry, poor soil. Drought tolerant.