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Officially, the end of harvest season and the onset of winter started on December 21, known as the Solstice, or in Celtic time, Yule. Extending to March 21, these days of darkness can seem wearily endless. However, we can gaze to plants to give us winter wonders. In the depth of winter, with some rather dark days, we can all use the small joys and anticipation that our gardens can bestow.
It has been a belief in some cultures that red berries or fruit bring us luck. If that is true, we can look to those plants that delight us with the color and form of their fruit. A beautiful understory tree with robust winter berries is the Washington Hawthorn, Crateagus viridis ‘Winter King’. Its size of 25′ makes it an excellent choice for hedges, though with thorns, you may want to choose a place that it can grow to its full height potential. This small tree truly has multi-season appeal with spring flowers that will eventually become winter berries, after a beautily, yellow fall leaf display.
Besides berries, we can look to bark color or texture for our winter inspiration. Yellow and Red twig dogwoods, whose color appears most prominently on new wood, displays a brilliant warm hue against the billowy textures of dried blades of ornamental grasses.
The two pair wonderfully together. Cutting these back every three of four years will keep their colors vibrant. Bark texture of birches, paperbark maples, and older crape myrtles also make outstanding texture in the sparse winter landscape.
Finally, we don’t have to wait long to have blooms from those hardy plants that will pop with color before most plants have even begun to wake from the hibernating slumber. We all know of our Lenten Roses early bloom, but the native Carolina Jessmine (Gelsimium sempervirens) will shine brightly with yellow, trumpet shaped blooms starting in February and give a taste of the nearing springtime emergence.