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Grow a Winter Wonderland

Wishing for a green Christmas? Here’s a selection of winter-loving plants for your garden.

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While most of us can’t plant anything outdoors during the winter months, that’s not to say we can’t still enjoy our gardens in winter. There’s been a trend in recent years that focuses on four-season gardening. This means designing and planting your yard so that it has plenty of winter interest to cheer your heart when you look out the window on a cold winter’s day.

Although many perennials have seed heads that will sustain through part of the winter, they do tend to wear down and decompose under a Canadian winter. With that in mind, landscape designers will recommend trees and shrubs that look great throughout the winter months.

Here’s a selection of winter-loving trees and shrubs to start you off.

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Winterberry

Sometimes referred to as Canada Holly, this native shrub looks unremarkable in the summer, but come autumn winds, its real appeal is revealed in the bright crimson or yellow-orange berries that cover its branches. Like other hollies, winterberry is dioecious, meaning that you need both female and male plants in order to have berry production.

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Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick

Also known by the less whimsical name of twisted hazel, this handsome shrub commands attention because of its curled, gnarled branches. An ideal shrub for a solitary planting, it’s a slow grower, reaching twelve feet in both height and width over twenty years.

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Red-Osier Dogwood and Yellow-Stemmed Dogwood

The best season for these dogwoods is winter, when their stems and branches glow brilliant red or gold depending on the variety. They should be kept well pruned because the best bark colour is found on young stems and twigs.

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Japanese Barberry

A four-season shrub that makes an excellent privacy hedge, barberry is extremely thorny. Its foliage through the spring and summer months can be green, gold, or purple depending on variety, and the fall colour is also excellent. Winter shows off the shrub’s starburst-like shape. Also, in winter the branches are usually heavily festooned with red berries that last throughout the season.

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Heaths and Heathers

Heaths flower in spring, while heather flowers in late summer, but both of these low-growing, acid soil loving relatives of rhododendrons have spectacular foliage colours in winter. Depending on variety, foliage can be gold, silver, bronze, copper, or red tinged with purple. These plants produce a colourful display when not buried in snow.

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Arnold’s Promise Witch Hazel

By mid winter, gardeners yearn for signs of spring. Those growing this shrub are rewarded with fragrant yellow flowers as early as February. Other witch hazels bloom in autumn or early spring, so check with your nursery to find a winter-flowering variety such as ‘Arnold’s Promise’.

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Rugosa Roses

Not all roses form attractive hips, but the rugosa species almost unfailingly cover themselves with large, red hips which last on branches throughout the winter, or until hungry birds eat them all.