Other winter interest: Stems, seeds and berries

Rosehips on 'Cliffs of Dover'

My recent posts on blooms and foliage made me reflect on those other winners in the winter garden, stems, seeds and berries.  They provide food for the birds and other animals along with structure for your garden.  In Oklahoma, the true growing season starts around the end of February for cool weather crops and after April 20 for tender veggies and flowers.  Then, the flora and fauna fun doesn’t stop until around the end of October or even later in moderate years.  I think our long growing season sometimes gives us tunnel vision that gardens are only interesting when they are in bloom.

In this photo of the back garden taken from a different angle, you can see that the climbing roses's canes are still green in spite of the wintry weather.

I beg to differ.  I think the garden can still provide you with delight if you think of it as a four season activity at least visually.

For years, I considered the months of winter only for planning, but in the last five or six, I’ve added many plants to help me through the gray winter months where shades of brown remain dominant in the landscape.  I do still plan during winter, reading the plant and seed catalogs, but I don’t stop there.  I try to get out and take photos while I check the garden for heaving problems.  With the cold weather and this week’s projected warmup, we should all be checking our precious plants to make sure they are firmly in the soil.  Just take a moment and press them into the soil with your shoe or your hands. You may have to dig a little around them to make this possible.  Your heucheras and hemerocallis will thank you.

The burnished foliage and seedheads of maiden grass, Miscanthus sinensis

If you’re interested in winter gardening books for southern gardens, you can’t go wrong with Gardens in Winter, by Elizabeth Lawrence (frugal hint:  I bought my copy used).  Although Lawrence also lived in USDA Zone 7,  her climate is more moderate than ours, so keep that in mind when she speaks of bloom times.

Oklahoma’s winter blooms often come a month or so later than those in the true south.  Further, Lawrence’s summer weather is more humid, so there are some things she could grow which don’t perform as well here, or we need to plant them in the shade.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' just opening (taken last February)

If you would like to add some winter shrubs, a good place to start would be with the five suggested by Vincent A. Simeone in his guest post at Gardening Gone Wild.  I can attest to the beauty of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ and ‘Arnold Promise.’  Both bloom here in late winter/early spring.  They are a bright spot in the landscape and smell so good.  His book, Wonders of the Winter Landscape: Shrubs and Trees to Brighten the Cold-Weather Garden, has great photographs and information to further help you choose.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' in winter

These blooms, above, aren’t foliage, bark or berries.  Still, they evoke the same mood as foliage in the foggy landscape.  If you live in Oklahoma or anywhere for that matter, and have a place for her, you should grow Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’.  She’s a four-season interest plant so worthy of garden space.

Echinacea seedheads stripped bare look like sunflowers

These aren’t really foliage either.  I believe, from where they are in the terraced garden, that they are spent Echinacea purpurea seedheads.  The birds have stripped them bare.  I find echinacea seedheads all over the garden, sometimes still full of seeds, other times, not.

Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' commonly coral bark Japanese maple

Finally, all is not brown.  I promise, cross my heart, that this shot of the coral bark Japanese maple was not altered.  It truly is this color especially on a cloudy day.  In the spring, leaves emerge as a yellow/green compliment to the red bark.  Later, they turn a brilliant yellow in the fall.  Find a shady spot (if you live in the south) and plant this beautiful tree.  You won’t be disappointed so long as you remember to water it.  However, it’s so striking I bet you won’t forget.

A. palmatum 'Sango kaku' in November 2009


  1. jen says:

    I love the coral bark maple!

  2. Pam/Digging says:

    Lovely, all, but you saved the best for last with that coral bark maple. It’s totally gorgeous in fall and winter. I’m sure spring and summer are good too.

  3. Rose says:

    Lovely photos, Dee! We live in a much colder zone, so there are no blooms here in winter, but I’m finding more and more each year how lovely certain elements are. As you show, the hydrangeas and echinacea seedheads are two of my favorites. The Japanese maple bark, though, is a real stunner!

  4. Jean says:

    You are so right about the beauty of that Coral Bark Maple. It’s gorgeous. Thanks for the tip on the heucheras and hemerocallis. It’s such a gorgeous day today but too wet and muddy for real digging. But I can surely check out the plants and pat them in if need be (last week when it was so cold I actually saw the effects of frozen soil for the first time in my life!).

    Hey Jean, it’s been a strange winter, more likes the ones I remember while growing up. It will make us rethink some of our zone edgier plant choices for sure.~~Dee

  5. Melody says:

    I actually have 3 Coral Bark Japanese Maples. I got one this spring and I have taken dozens of pictures as the leaves and bark changed colors. Then I happened to be in the right nursery talking to the right person at the right time. I pointed out that the 2 Coral Barks left looked pitiful – one had turned over and lost half the potting soil. The manager said, “Do you want them – you can have them for $10 a piece.” I’m not crazy, I know a good deal when I hear one – lol. So they came home with me for some TLC – they looked pitiful until they lost their leaves, but I am sure they will be gorgeous in the spring.

    Melody, what an amazing story! I once found a sad, little Japanese maple at Home Depot. Once I showed them how sad it was, they sold it to me for $10, but to get three coral barks for that price. Priceless!~~Dee

  6. Steve says:

    Good Lord, Frances, you guys name your plants? 😉

    Steve, you crack me up. I see you winking.~~Dee

  7. Frances says:

    Oh Arnold is opening! How exciting! Here Diane is in the lead, with similar efforts by the petals to break out of the buds. Using berries, seed heads and dried flowers makes so much sense, in addition to choice evergreens for winter interest and faunal fun. 🙂

    Oh, Frances, I wish. That ‘Arnold’ photo was taken last March. He won’t open until then.~~Dee

  8. Cyndy says:

    I Sango-kaku too! Just posted on her – your color is better than mine, I think. Just a great little all season tree. Excellent pix!

    Thank you Cyndy.~~Dee

  9. That ‘Sango kaku’ is just gorgeous!

    Thanks Rose.~~Dee

  10. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You have some great winter interest in your garden Dee. I love that maple tree. I almost got one at an auction a year ago. I should have went ahead and bought it. Sigh~~

    Lisa, there is always this year. It’s never too late, at least until they plant us. LOL.~~Dee

  11. Les says:

    Speaking of beautiful photographs, the one with the fence and Miscanthus is very nice, and so is your Coral Bark Maple.

    Thank you Les. I love that grass, and split rail is my fave.~~Dee

  12. Your hydrangeas are magnificent. The dried blooms are spectacular in their own right! I’ve always thought they were so lovely, but have yet to find one that thrives down here. Of course, I’ll keep trying.

    Nola, I think ‘Annabelle’ might surprise you in the shade. Mine is almost in full shade.~~Dee

  13. Wow! That Japanese Maple is a gorgeous color! I’m imagining that peeking out of my snowdrifts and stopping traffic. 🙂

    Kate, that’s a good thought.~~Dee

  14. Siting of colored stemmed shrubs and trees is very important. Your Maple stands out beautifully against the brown background of tree trunk and fence. My red-twigged Dogwoods are too often lost against their too busy and light background of a chainlink fence.

    Oh, MMD, I have red-twigged dogwood stuck in the middle of a bed. It needs a better home or more of its brothers to surround it.~~Dee

  15. That coral bark maple is a real looker.

    Thank you Kathy.~~Dee

  16. Steve says:

    I agree that Winter is a challenge which can all-to-often become nothing more than an ordeal at times. Having said that, a look at your Coral Bark Japanese Maple reminds me as well of the Cornus Siberica’s (Red Twig Dogwood shrubs) I so often coupled with Yellow Twigs, making a real Winter time riot of color when mixed. The Hamamelis is another true winner for Winter and was a real revelation when I found it. In fact, this post reminded me of just how MUCH attention I have paid to Winter rather than the opposite. Now, this is from a sun-loving, outdoor person, so I will never be ecstatic when Winter rolls around. But it is what it is and we can’t do much to stop it, lol.

    I love both the red and yellow twigged dogwoods. I don’t have any yellow, but I do have one red. Interesting you should mention it because I almost included it in this group of photos. I feared it was too many. No, we can’t stop winter from rolling in, but we might as well have a bit of interest to help us survive. 🙂 ~~Dee

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