Plants for Fall and Winter Interest

Today when I hung the Christmas lights, I thought this is what Christmas must be like in San Diego. The temperature was in the 60’s.  I took a walk through the yard while I was outside and saw there are still some beautiful sights in the garden at this time of year.

At this time of year, the nice thing about there not being leaves on the plants and trees is Mother Nature shows off not only the bark and berries, but the structure and colors of her beauties.

Here are a list of plants, trees and shrubs that have impressed me this fall. These are just a few of my favorite plants for fall and winter interest. Most of these are in my back yard, but I took a few photos in my travels at other gardens.

Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’ This brightly colored heuchera has pinkish-white flowers in spring. It continues to maintain its color at this time of year. Deer resistant.

Height: 8 inches

Spread: 18 inches

Foliage: Scalloped shaped leaves that are pink to purple in color

Exposure: Partial shade

Moisture: Moderate

Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) This small to medium sized ornamental tree is slow growing and has year-round interest.  The exfoliating cinnamon-copper bark is best seen when the leaves have fallen.

Height: 20-30 feet

Width: 15-25 feet

Zones: 4-8

Foliage: Leaves are shades of yellow, orange, dark and vibrant reds, crimson and pink.  The leaves sometimes remain on the tree into winter.

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.

Moisture: Average water needs.

Spirea Mellow Yellow ‘Ogon’ (Spireae thunbergii) This is a low-maintenance shrub that is as stunning in fall as it is in spring and summer. It has willowy-like arching stems.

Height: 4-5 feet

Width: 4-5 feet

Zones: 5

Foliage: Arching stems with white flowers in spring. Has willow-like, lime-green foliage in summer that turns russet/orange in fall. The colorful leaves are still in place in the garden in December.

Exposure: Sun to part-shade.

Moisture: Drought tolerant.

Red-twig dogwood ‘Midwinter Fire’ (Cornus sanguinea)The red stems of this shrub look great against a snow laden landscape. It blooms white in the spring and its berries attract birds.   ‘Midwinter Fire’ is low maintenance and it is a Pennsylvania Gold-Medal award winner.

Height: 5 feet

Width: 6 feet

Zones: 5-7

Foliage: Dark green or variegated depending on the variety.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade.

Moisture: Adaptable to many soils including wet soil.

Oakleaf hydrangea ‘Snowflake’ (Hydrangea quercifolia) This shrub provides four-season interest. It has large white flower heads in the spring. There are many varieties of this hydrangea. This type of hydrangea does not turn pink or blue as with some types of hydrangeas.

Height: 6 feet

Width: 6 feet

Zones: 6-9

Foliage: Has oak leaf shaped leaves that turn burgundy-bronze in the fall.

Exposure: Sun to part shade.

Moisture: Drought-tolerant.

‘Goshiki’ osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus)Also known as false holly because it looks like holly with its spiny leaves. This is a slow-growing, broad-leaf evergreen.  Barry Yinger of York County discovered this great year round shrub.

Height: 5 Feet

Width: 4 feet

Zones: 6-9

Foliage: Spiny green variegated leaves are speckles with cream and gold.

Exposure: Dappled light to part shade.

Moisture: Moderately damp.

‘Prairiefire’ crabapple (Malus ‘Prairiefire’) This four-season beauty gets covered with intense red-pink blooms in the spring. In the fall and winter is sustains glossy deep red fruits that attract birds. 

Height: 15-20 feet

Width: 15-20 feet

Zones: 4-9

Foliage: Has purple-burgundy new growth that turns green in summer.  Leaves become deep burgundy in the fall.

Exposure: Full sun.

Moisture: Drought tolerant.

Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana)This slow-growing evergreen is a good plant next to a water garden. It has small white flowers in the spring but they are not easily seen due to its large leaves.

Height: 3-6 feet

Width: 3-6 feet

Zones: 4-6

Foliage: Lateral arching dark-green, leathery leaves, 3 to 5 inches in length that turn reddish bronze in the fall.

Exposure: Part shade, likes protected from winter wind.

Moisture: Moist acid soil.

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