During the bleak of winter, even the best of landscape designs can look pretty sad, especially if your design is lacking in design elements visible during the winter months.
Winter is the time to take inventory of your landscape to assess where you can add plants in the spring. There are some basic design elements that go along with selecting the right plants. Think color, form, and texture.
Plants with distinctive bark
Most landscape designs focus on colorful flowers in the spring and summer, and often on fall color with the changing of leaves. However, there are other ways to bring color into your landscaping.
Bark color is one aspect to consider. Plants with red bark -- such as red-twigged dogwood, Cornus alba 'Sibirica' -- look stunning when set against snow.
Although not colorful per se, white birch trees, with their white bark set off with interesting black patterns, create a stunning contrast against a snowy backdrop.
Another way to bring interest to a winter landscape is selecting trees with distinctive bark rich in texture. Think crape myrtle and kousa dogwood, both of which have flaking, peeling bark that becomes more noticeable once their leaves have dropped.
Don't forget to add evergreens to your landscaping, as there is nothing quite like a rich deep green topped with snow. Varying the shades of green is important too, so try adding evergreens with a touch of blue, such as the blue spruce, or a tinge of gold, such as gold mops false cypress.
Some tree species have a dramatic silhouette you just can't see while the tree is decked out in leaves. Species with particularly strong form and silhouettes include the Japanese maple and the plane tree, Platanus hispanica, with its gnarly branches.
Plants with winter berries
Also a great addition are plants that hold berries into the winter. Holly is a popular option, with clusters of festive red berries. You might also consider crabapple trees, since the apples often hang onto the branches into the winter months.
For a change of pace from plants producing red berries, try the sapphireberry, Symplocos paniculata, with purplish-blue berries.
Before you make any plant choices, make sure your selections are suited to your climate and soils. Just because your local plant nursery carries a specific species does not automatically mean it will grow successfully.
Linda is a landscape architect and certified arborist in southern Arizona. With over 20 years experience in landscape design, she also has a passion for all plants and gardening. As a freelance writer for a number of websites, she has produced hundreds of articles on plants, plant care, and design.