The gray days of winter will inspire any gardener to dream of brilliant colored flowers and the many different greens of trees, shrubs and garden plants. However, winter is also a time to take stock of the winter interest found in the garden. There are many shrubs that provide color and texture to the garden when a green leaf or a flower blossom can’t be found.
The white willow, Salix alba, can be a small tree or a large shrub. When pruned and maintained as a shrub, the white willow has vibrant orange-red stems in the winter. This shrub is hardy in zones two to eight and is about three and half feet tall and two and half feet wide at maturity and when pruned annually.
A member of the dogwood or Cornaceae family, red-osier dogwood is a dogwood shrub that provides masses of colored stems in winter. Hardy in zones three through eight, “Cardinal” had bright red stems. “Flaviramea” has bright yellow stems. Most cultivars reach about six feet in height and will spread up to 12 feet with roots that sucker prolifically.
One of my favorite shrubs to look at is Corylus avellana “Contorta,” commonly known as Henry Lauder’s walking stick. This shrub is a member of the hazel or Corylaceae family. The fabulous feature of this shrub has bent and twisted branches that are unlike any other shrub that will grow in zones five through eight.
At maturity, this shrub is eight feet tall and 10 feet wide.
The bright green stems of Japanese kerria, Kerria japonica, stand out in winter. This shrub, a member of the rose family, grows in full to light shade and provides small rose-like blossoms in the spring. Depending upon the species, this shrub may be quite large or small and grows in zones five through nine.
It may come as a surprise, but the high-bush blueberry provides colorful and delicate burgundy colored stems in the fall. Vaccinium corymbosum also has white blossoms in spring that eventually become edible blueberries. There’s no need to relegate blueberry plants to a far corner of the garden, simply incorporate these shrubs into your landscape. High bush blueberries are hardy in zones three to seven and prefer full sun to partial shade. There are many different species of high bush blueberry, but “Bluecrop” does well in the Ozarks and is a little drought tolerant.
Also a small tree or large shrub, Heptacodium miconioides, commonly known as “Seven-son flower,” is a deciduous flowering shrub that provides vertically peeling pale brown bark in the winter.
This tree or shrub is irregular in habitat, but it can be pruned as desired. Limbing up the bottom branches will show off the bark, too. Pruning will affect height and width, but this shrub can reach 10 to 15 feet in height and 10 feet in width.
Finally, be sure to plant your winter interest shrubs where they can be enjoyed from a window inside the warmth of your home.
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