Saturday, November 8, 2003

Color your winter world

A variety of plants, trees can warm landscapes in the cold

By Beth Burwinkel
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Landscape architect Gayle Frazer stands admid plants that can add winter color.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
When the gray of winter blankets Greater Cincinnati, Marcia Sherry finds cheer in the candy-red branches of the red twig dogwoods outside her kitchen window.

"I wanted to have something nice to look at out my kitchen window for the wintertime - rather than just sticks," she says.

Sherry, president of the Springdale Garden Club, also planted the groundcover sedum in a window box outside her kitchen window. The sedum stays green through the winter and trails over the side of the window box.

Bamboo, ornamental grasses and flat leaf Italian parsley are three plants that get avid gardener Sandy Stephens of Mount Auburn through the winter. The bamboo is his favorite.

"Leaves on the bamboo are so narrow and fine," he says. "When they get covered with snow, they pick up the light when the air moves ... It's just a magnificent sculpture."

While winter may be a time to clean the tools, study seed catalogs and dream of the next growing season, many Tristate gardeners look forward to late fall and winter interest in their landscapes.

"I like to do some winter interest in all parts of the garden," landscape architect Gayle Frazer says.

Interesting design

When she is designing, Frazer plans for winter interest in the front of the house as well as in the views enjoyed from key windows - such as the kitchen, family room or even the home office.

Ann Fox, co-chairwoman of the Landscape Horticulture department at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, suggests:
Oakleaf hydrangea - has nice purple fall color and holds its dried flowers through winter.
Sweet bay magnolia - it holds many leaves into a mild winter.
Maiden grass keeps its wheat-colored fronds.
Flowering dogwoods have prominent buds.
Purple palace coral bells hold leaves through the winter.
Silver mound has attractive gray foliage.
Lambs ear has gray wooly foliage.
German iris has spiky leaves.
Dwarf fothergilla.
Butterfly bush.
She strives for 12 months of interest across the front yard.

For one client she called for a bed of roses across the front, but for cold-weather interest she designed an S-shaped row of liriope to stand out in the winter.

Near the driveway is another area where Frazer likes winter-attractive plants.

"When you come into your driveway, that's your front door," she says. "That area, to me, needs to look nice all the time."

"There isn't one thing that is going to look pretty all year long, so we use a large range of plants in the garden," says Diane Normolle, a horticulturist from Oakley.

Normolle plants ornamental cabbage and kale in the fall - they look nice until a really hard freeze. She also plants pansies - they bloom late into the fall, survive the winter and bloom again in early spring, sometimes by early February.

Lenten rose puts out foliage in January and blooms through April, she says.

Winter aconite starts blooming in late January. Candytuft blooms in early spring but holds foliage all winter. Contorted filbert has a unique shape that is very apparent in winter.

One of Frazer's favorite plants for winter interest is winterberry holly, a deciduous holly laden with berries in February and March. She is also fond of weeping evergreens, such as weeping Norway spruce, weeping white pine and weeping hemlock.

"It's kind of like a living sculpture," Frazer says of weeping hemlock.

Ornamental grasses provide a lot of winter interest. So will a strategically placed sculpture or boulder. These can be hidden in the summer by plants, but come to life on their own in the winter, Frazer says.

Trees important

Gardeners can plant fruit trees outside their kitchen windows and watch birds appreciate the fruit in the winter, Frazer says. Winter king hawthorne, red jewel crab apple and harvest gold crab apple are trees that carry fruit well into the winter.

Some trees, such as paperbark maple and river birch have interesting bark. Serviceberry has a gray bark. Show off the tree's bark by lighting at night . Bloodgood Japanese maple sports gray striped bark as the tree ages.

Ann Fox, co-chairwoman of the Landscape Horticulture department at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, likes paperbark maple for its cinnamon bark as well as the dark velvet-green leaves that turn purple in the fall.

The weeping red jade crab apple that Fox grows outside her front door holds fruit into the winter. Weeping red bud "covey" has almost black bark that stands out against the snow, as well as a weeping form, she says.

Special interests

Diana Boyd of South Fairmount grows several native plants for winter interest. Pawpaw has a nice shape, she says. American bladder nut has bark with a checked pattern. Goldenrod remains attractive through winter. Hepatica is a small perennial that holds its leaves all winter. Cross vine, an evergreen native vine, can grow to 30 feet. Hers grows up a fence and into a tree.

Boyd likes winter walks in the woods. To enhance her winter landscape, she gathers sticks, grasses and whatever catches her eye on her walks.

She brings them home and arranges them in a pot at the entrance to her house.

Gardener Sarah Kaiser of Eastgate grows honeysuckle, dogwood, elderberry and viburnum in her yard to feed the birds in the winter.

"My yard tends to have more of a wild look to it," she says.

"I don't like a stagnant back yard. I like to see movement and critters and all that."


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