The Nebraska landscape may very well be more about the winter months than any other season with the potential that it spans from October to April. Don’t dismay, rather embrace the idea of planning for displays of texture, form and evergreen color. This study of snowy, dormant days can provide ideas for how plants can offer visual contrast beyond the growing season.
The gnarly, well branched branches of Kentucky Coffeetree creates a sculpture against the sky. The black seed pods add to the display. Don’t like the pods? Male selections are now available like Espresso and Decaf.
Barberries are one of the toughest shrubs, but are often overlooked for their brilliant fall color and red fruits that stand out in the winter. The biggest problem with barberry is the “planter.” Be sure to plant with enough space so spreading branches don’t overlap sidewalks.
Nebraska’s native buttonbush has unique seed clusters. No room for the 10 foot shrubs – Sugar Shack is a new introduction that grows less than half the standard size and has the same great flowers and seedheads.
Even the heaviest snow and ice storms can’t keep the Northwind Switchgrass down. The most upright of all the switchgrasses, Northwind will stand to 5 feet throughout the entire winter.
Mounding grasses like Fountaingrass are “puffs of foliage” and the bristle-like seedheads change over the winter as they break apart.
Neat, tidy, compact, small scale globes of dark green foliage make this gem perfect for small courtyards and spaces.
The blue green color of this spruce is an evergreen contrast to the more common forest green of pines. Globe forms of Blue Spruce are a great way to provide contrasting forms.
One of the most famous plants at Finke Gardens, our front door planting of Ephedra provides year round interest, always looking the same except when coated in snow and ice. This is a plant for full sun and well drained soils.
Sometimes referred to as a broadleaf evergreen, the leatherleaf-types like Alleghany and Willowwood hang onto their foliage through the winter.
Dwarf conifers like this false cypress are perfect for front door points of interest, but use caution in planting so it can have plenty of room to grow. All too often those cute little conifers found in nurseries are placed too close to sidewalks and houses, and they have to be ripped out just as they are developing their gracious forms.
Slow growing, but worth the wait, Harry Lauder’s Walkingstick is a bit of an oddity. Some love it, while others can’t get over the fact that the leaves look like they’ve been hit with herbicide. Be sure to plant where it can mature to its full size of up to 10 feet in height and width. Added bonus – flower arrangers like the stems & spring catkins.
Weeping forms of trees like this Cascade Falls Bald Cypress work best as a focal point set within more conventional tree forms. The massive oak behind this specimen provides a perfect backdrop. The dwarf conifer to the side is a dense evergreen contrast in color, texture and form.
Weeping branches of spruce catch the ice in different layers, adding to the contrast of plant forms in the overall landscape.
Curly Willow is a classic for floral arrangements, providing a contrasting linear form. It can do the same in the landscape, but be careful with the site selection as the older stems are prone to breakage. Place in an out of the way location where this isn’t a problem and enjoy the unique form that it offers.
Groundcover shrubs like Hess Cotoneaster provide an arching form most apparent in the winter when foliage drops.
Birdbaths, sculpture and other garden ornaments stand out in the winter landscape in stark contrast to the more subtle seasonal colors. Big spaces call for larger ornaments.