Think 'Threes' When it Comes to Winter Interest

Supreme Landscapes utilized shrubs for winter
interest in their display for the Connecticut
Flower and Garden Show. 
HARTFORD, Conn. - Imagine looking outside your window in the middle of winter and seeing coral winterberries glistening off the reflecting snow.

That's the picture Allison Kaminski painted during her lecture on winter interest in the garden during the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show Thursday. Kaminski is a gardening consultant for Supreme Landscapes LLC of Bristol, Conn., a company she and her husband, Matt, own.

"There are coral-colored winterberries now ["Winter Gold"] which literally look like a shell on a stem. You think of the Caribbean when you look at it because it's that Bermuda coral color," she said. "It's crazy to see that outside your window in the winter."

Winterberries - commonly known for their red berries that attract birds - like damp soil, something to keep in mind when scouting a spot for it. The plants can be spaced as far apart as 20 feet to get good berry production, Kaminski said.

Color, Texture, Contrast Figure in to Winter Display
There are three main categories of plants to consider for winter interest: perennials, evergreens and woody shrubs.

Perennials include sedums, echinacea and rudbeckia whose seed heads can be left standing for winter interest. Hellebores keep their leaves during the winter. "You don't see them now under the snow, but they are one of the first to bloom in the spring."

Kaminski said gardeners should not cut down ornamental grasses in the fall because water can get into the hollow stems and rot the plant over the winter. "Leave them up for curly q displays and wispiness."

Evergreens are where you can add your textures in to your winter garden, said Kaminski. "Don't just think of your standard blue spruce," she said. Hollies provide red berries throughout the winter.

A woody shrub to consider is the red twig dogwood. "You can intermingle them anywhere," she said. "To keep the stems red, you want to cut them down every two years or so. You want to keep young, fresh growth on there." Kerria japonica, another woody shrub, is also a favorite because of its fluorescent green stems.

When deciding on plants that will look good for your winter garden, consider where it will fit in in your garden and how many you want in the garden, said Kaminski. "You have to watch to make sure its hardy to our zone up here," said

"You can't buy a paperbark maple that's going to grow 20 feet and put it a foot away from your house just because it has nice bark," she said. "Paperbark maple is by far one of the nicest trees I could recommend for a winter garden," she said, but give it room to grow.

When choosing a plant that will display winter interest in the garden, Kaminski said gardeners should focus on color, texture and contrast. Three more factors to consider include choosing a plant that will keep its flower or fruit during the winter, the foliage of the plant, and bark or stems that add contrast to the background.

"People think crabapples are old fashioned but they are good for birds and there is fruit on them all year long," she said. "Crabapples handle trimming very well, so it's easy to maintain them to a height of 10 feet."

One combination Kaminski recommends and grows in her own garden contains white birch, weeping white pine and red winterberry. "The texture of the white bark compliments the red berries. The white pine softens the look."

Allison Kaminski will be presenting "Winter Interest in Your Garden" Saturday and Sunday at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show

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