A GROWING CONCERN: ‘Tis the season to plant winter wonders

With the advent of December; winter is but 19 days away (Dec. 21).

This coming season is the perfect time to plant and transplant botanical wonders.

That means, today, I’ll give you a list of beautiful winter interest trees to have around your yard.

Winter scenery need not be blasé with these spectacular additions to turn your yard into a miniature Bouchard Gardens.

1. Betula (birch)

This genus of 60 species of deciduous trees and shrubs is found from riverbeds to mountains.

Being from Wisconsin, I am biased toward the beautiful Betula papyrifera “paper bark Birch” with its beautiful white and black trunk swinging in the windy rain.

Excellent varieties include Betula negra “river birch” with beautiful shaggy, red brown bark, and Betula nana “arctic birch” and Betula “trosts dwarf” are wonderful miniatures only a foot or two tall with nice serrated leaves, perfect for a smaller size lot.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii and Betula playphylla “Japanese birch” are known for their pure white bark.

2. Pieris japonica (lily of the valley bush)

Their foliage is glossy green. Second, their growth habit is ideal for borders, hedges or woodland.

Finally, they bloom in late fall through winter with thousands of small flowers growing on each branch tip.

Great favorites are “flamingo,” Christmas cheer,” “fire crest,” “white cascade,” “purity,” “mountain fire” and “debutante.”

3. Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Cedar)

A genus of one (maybe two) species of evergreen from China and Japan, here is your unusual specimen plant.

The foliage is unusual in texture, being soft and almost rubbery and in appearance, and in a chameleon quality throughout the year.

Look for “compacta,” “elagans,” “spiralis,” “Bandai-sugi,” or “Sekka-sugi.”

4. Calluna vulgaris (Scottish heather)

There are over 500 cultivars of Scottish heather. Easy to grow and, in most cases, fast, heathers add charm and spiky texture to any garden, especially with winter bloom.

“Firefly” has brick-red foliage in winter, “Alison Yates” has silver gray leaves, while “gold” and “golden feather” have gorgeous yellow foliage.

5. Hex (holly)

Holly leaves are spiny or toothed with an interesting gloss and structure. My favorites are the Ilex Aquafolium “golden milk boy,” “Handsworth new silver,” the unusual “Ferox Arhentea” or “silver milkmaid.”

Chinese holly’s Ilex cornuta and the variegated Ilex x attenuata “Sunny Foster” are also very nice.

6. Camellias.

A genus of over 250 very long-lived shrubs and small trees, Camellias bloom from January until April.

Camellias cover themselves in blooms with dazzling bi- and tri-colors available.

7. Salix (willow).

Over 300 species make up this very versatile group of trees and shrubs.

Salix are easy to grow, offer twisted shapes and lend themselves to dry flower arrangements, oftentimes blooming in winter.

Salix sachalinensis “Sekka” or fantail willows are always hits.

Salix alba “Tristis of gardens” or clones “Britzensis” and “Chermesina” have spectacular winter twig colors of red, orange or bronze.

Salix babylonica “Tortuosa” (dragon’s claw willow) is wonderfully twisted and marvelous in tall arrangements.

8. Cornus (dogwood)

Sticking with the winter twig display, what can beat Dogwood except variegated Dogwood? Cornus Alba “red twig dogwood” and “Siberica” are well noted.

“Spaethii” has yellow-variegated foliage. For yellow twigs, try Cornus stolenifer “Flaviramea,” all of which can be cut down to within inches of the ground in the spring for brilliant new foliage color in winter.

9. Corylus avellana “Contorta” (contorted filbert, aka Harry Lauder’s walking stick)

This was developed for its twisted branches used in making walking sticks.

This plant today has no equal in winter appeal when measured by branch interest.

Once a mature plant, they will develop hazelnut fruit in the fall.

10. Virburnum

Another spectacular genus of evergreen and semi-evergreen shrubs.

Try Acerifolium “winterthur,” japanicum, sargentii, or some bi- or tri-color.

11. Evergreenum colorus spectac-ularum (aka colored evergreens)

Great blue colors are Picea pungens glauca (blue Colorado spruce Var. “Shinner”, “Koster”, and “Thompson”) and Juniperus squamata “blue star” (a dwarf).

Why not try the lovely Cedrus atlantica “Glauca” blue atlantis or Cedrus deodara “Deodar cedar” for perfect winter texture?

Now get your rain gear, umbrella and bogg boots afoot, take this list to your favorite nurseries and bring home a collection to plant in your own backyard, so this time next year you can enjoy it from the warmth of your home while rains pound against the windows.

Happy holidays and stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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