Plants for the Winter Garden

Plants for the Winter Garden
Some garden plants have special features that are at their best during the winter. Plants for winter gardens can include ones with picturesque profiles, showy bark, fruits or berries, and the like. Some recommended plants are the following.


Due to the spectacular bark, the birches deserve a place in the winter garden. Some of the birches are aromatic. Weeping forms are available.

Birches tend to bloom early. They bear catkins or cone-like clusters in very early spring. The trees are suited to most soils.

The short lived trees can experience various disease or pest problems. In the East as well as in the Central US., there is a destructive insect that plagues most birches. This makes it necessary to treat and control the pest in those locations.

For example, the paperbark birch is prone to the bronze birch borer. However, it is less likely to experience problems than the other species.

The most commonly grown white trunked birches are the European white birch and the native paper birch.

The native river birch is a good source of winter interest due to the gorgeous peeling bark. This is much easier to grow than the white birch, which is disease prone. River birch needs a moist site.

The river birch reaches 60 feet or more in height. It features brown-red bark. This native is found from the North southward to Florida and westward. It does well in the Midwest.

The monarch birch is a very large introduced birch species. This tree reaches 100 feet or so in height. The fast growing plant has brownish-orange shaggy bark.

As the tree ages, the monarch birch trunks can turn white or gray. The tree also bears very small cone-like fruits that add winter interest.

Monarch birch seems to show some resistance to the bronze birch borer although it isn’t clear whether this is always the case.

The birches are hard to transplant, so balled and burlapped trees are recommended. These trees need a moist soil, and they must be watered whenever rain is insufficient. These trees have lovely graceful growth habit that adds to their beauty. The leaves turn yellow in the fall.

The hardiness of birches can vary by species.

Crape Myrtle

Wherever it is hardy, the crape myrtle makes a wonderful ornamental. The plant can be a shrub or tree. Crape myrtle is one of the showiest flowering deciduous woody plants that bloom during the summer.

Depending on the one being grown, it can be 6 to 20 feet in height. Dwarf types are readily available. This is one of my favorite small flowering trees. It is hardy to zone 7.

The tree has a lovely vase-like shape and four-angled twigs. Once the leaves drop in the fall, the showy bark is on display. This is very distinctive, particularly during the winter.

Yet, there are other reasons to grow crape myrtles with a main one being its free flowering nature. The papery flowers appear throughout the summer into the fall. Their color varies widely, according to the variety.

Crape myrtle blossoms can be pink, white, red, purple, or lavender. The flowers are 1 ½ inch wide. With six petals, these form terminal clusters, up to 9 inches long, on the current year’s growth. In addition, the leaves bring color in the fall as well.

For best results use either container plants or balled and burlapped ones for this can be hard to transplant. Crape myrtle can experience mildew.

Crape myrtle adapts to moist soils. To promote flowering, keep it watered during dry periods and fertilize on a regular basis.

Those gardeners in cold climates where this tree isn’t hardy can grow it as a perennial. In those areas, it will die back to the ground over the winter. Then, during the spring, new shoots will arise from the roots.

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