Winter beauties in the garden

Judith Adam

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Snow collects on miscanthus. (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)
Snow collects on miscanthus. (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)
Snow collects on miscanthus. (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)

Most gardeners leave some perennials standing over winter, hoping they’ll catch the snow and make a beautiful picture in the garden. With the first snow still fresh, now is a good time to look around to see where dried stalks and seedheads have been transformed into a winter tableau. Of course, you’ll also notice the empty areas where grasses and perennials were cut down, and perhaps next autumn you’ll let them stand.

Tall sedums (cultivars of Sedum spectabile) are ideal for winter display, along with rudbeckias and the flower stalks of hostas, with their little seed capsules flared open and looking like miniature pagoda lanterns. The fuzzy and flamboyant seedheads of clematis are wonderful in snow, as are rosehips of any colour, and the dried, brown flowers of hydrangeas.

In my garden, the tall stalks of black cohosh or bugbane (Actaea racemosa, syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) are spangled with round seed capsules that each catches a bonnet of snow. Ornamental grasses are also good candidates for winter display. I’ve had success with both Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, both of which stand up and catch snow along their dried foliage.

If you find that key areas near windows and doors appear vacant in these cold months, try putting an obelisk or other attractive plant support in the blank space. It will catch the snow and display its own architectural beauty.

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