Winter Interest In The Garden And Nature

By Mary Ellen Ellis | January 4, 2022
Image by Joe Riederer
by Mary Ellen Ellis
January 4, 2022

Visual interest in winter is important. It transforms a gray and white landscape into something more magical. It takes a dormant world and reminds you that life is coming back soon. Here are some of my favorite winter interest plants, both from my own garden and in the natural spaces I walk all season. 

Evergreens in Winter

Of course, the dependable evergreen doesn’t lose its color in winter, and thank goodness. In my garden, a favorite is the boxwood outlining beds in front of the house. From my cozy winter perch in the living room, I can see the green and the table of snow that collects on top of them. 

Until this summer, I also had two pretty little spruce trees that served a similar purpose. They had perfect cone shapes and added a festive touch to the beds, especially around the holidays. Unfortunately, they succumbed to a mysterious disease, turning all brown, and had to be removed. 


Michigan’s native holly species, winterberry, is not an evergreen like other types of holly. But it is a stunner when it produces dense clusters of red berries in the winter. The wooded area I walk in the winter has a few specimens. Not only do they provide striking color against the monochrome of winter, but they attract and feed overwintering birds. 

Red Twig Dogwood

Another native stunner, I enjoy this one both on my walks through the woods and in my backyard. I have a red twig dogwood growing in a natural corner of the garden bordering my neighbor’s yard. 

All winter, the bright red, leafless branches provide color and a little cover for the wildlife that likes to hang out in this overgrown corner. As an added bonus, it produces unique white berries in fall to feed birds and provides a contrast with autumn foliage. 


One of the most majestic trees native to my region is the American sycamore. It’s a huge, stunning tree with big leaves, and I’m lucky enough to have one just across the street. 

Aside from its majesty and summer leafiness, this sycamore provides great visual interest once the green has faded, and snow is on the ground. Also known as scaly-bark sycamore, the bark of this tree peels off in great chunks. This reveals of patchwork of colors from gray to brown to stark white. 

Admittedly, winter is not my favorite season, but it’s easy to find the beauty in it. These and other sources of visual interest and wildlife support put a smile on my face despite the cold and the snow. 

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