Evergreens shine in winter

Beckie Fox

Dwarf conifers such as columnar blue spruce offer focal interest. (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)

When I stand at the windows that overlook the back garden, what’s most noticeable, especially if snow has fallen, are the evergreen  and coniferous trees and shrubs. I’m mainly a deciduous kind of gal, but I’m glad those solid silhouettes are there to contrast with the open forms of the maples, oaks, dogwoods, hydrangeas and magnolias that make up most of the woody plants in the garden.

Many of the evergreens are varieties of cedars, including a large ‘Green Giant’ (Thuja x plicata ‘Green Giant’) near the birdfeeder. The fat cedar offers shelter and a resting spot as the cardinals, wrens and blue jays take turns at the feeder, and seems almost animated at times with birdsong and bobbing branches.

Even small gardens have space for a few dwarf conifers. Now might be a good time to look outside at your own garden to determine where one or two might enhance your winter landscape. “Long-Needled Pines” and “Designing with Dwarf Conifers” offer inspiration and suggestions.

Dwarf conifers such as columnar blue spruce offer focal interest. (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)
Dwarf conifers such as columnar blue spruce offer winter interest. (Photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling)

Bark beauties

One of the reasons I’m drawn to deciduous trees — other than the glowing colours of fall foliage and architectural shapes — is that some have intricately patterned bark, too. Stewartia, paperback maple and lacebark elm are a few we’ve planted over the years. Here are eight other specimens with beautiful bark.

For those of you who are true bark aficionados and also enjoy a bit of a scavenger hunt, check out this bark poster. You could download a copy to take with you on your next winter walk to help identify what you see on the trail.  “Bark is like almost everything in nature — the more you look the more you see,” writes the photographer.

Calamint named perennial of 2021

It’s a new year and the proclamations are beginning to roll in. The Perennial Plant Association has voted calamint (Calamintha nepeta spp. nepeta) the perennial of 2021. “Undemanding and dependable, calamint provides the perfect foil for other summer bloomers and foliage,” the PPA writes.

These mounding plants (Zone 5) with tiny pale lavender flowers bloom in full sun from summer through late fall in my garden. They’ve lasted for years and never required dividing. Admittedly they’re not particularly showy, but still worthwhile because they’re pest-free and a magnet for pollinators. This last attribute is especially important as the plants provide nectar and pollen well into late fall, when there’s not much available for bees and wasps to feed on.

Award-winning ‘Rainbow’s End’ hosta 

‘Rainbow’s End’ is the American Hosta Growers Association’s pick for 2021. According to the Laidback Gardener, the association never selects  a new cultivar, but rather one that has a proven track record and performs well in different hardiness zones. Winners also need to have good garden presence and exhibit an above average resistance to common garden pests. Boldly variegated ‘Rainbow’s End’, about 10 inches (25 cm) tall with narrow, textured foliage, was launched in 2006, so perhaps you already have it. If not, maybe add it to your growing plant list, along with a few pots of calamint.

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1 thought on “Evergreens shine in winter”

  1. Thanks for the post on beautiful trees! I’m definitely going to check out some of those deciduous trees you mentioned.

    One of my favorite trees is the evergreen. Even though they don’t have as much color in winter, they shine in comparison to other barren trees.


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