Enhancing Your Landscape for Winter

Spring is just around the corner, which has many people waiting for warm weather and blooming flowers. While you’re waiting for temperatures to warm up, take the time to appreciate the beauty of landscapes in the winter. Many people think of winter as the least interesting to be outside. But if you look a little closer, winter is actually the time when some of the most unique characteristics of plants really shine. Special features include bark texture and color, showy fruit or seed pods, and branching structure.

The Kemper Center for Home Gardening has a few winter favorites that can enhance your landscape in winter.

Bark Texture

Japanese Garden 01 January 2017 Paperbark Maple Geese Paradise Island Crane Island Winter Snow Sundos Schneider

For bark texture, you can’t go wrong with paperbark maple. This small tree features papery sheets of peeling, cinnamon colored bark. The Japanese stewartia is another small tree that has a patchwork of exfoliating bark in shades of grey and reddish brown.

Bark color

Kemper staff’s favorite plant for colorful bark is by far the red twig dogwood. There are a lot of different cultivars available with various shades of red, orange, and yellow bark. For the best color and to create dense, bushy growth, Kemper staff recommend pruning larger stems to allow young, new growth to flourish. The newer growth has the most vivid color.


At the Kemper Center, horticulture staff leaves dried flower heads on many of our hydrangea plants. Guests often ask why this is. The simple answer is they add beauty to the landscape. Leaving the seed heads and dried flower heads on flowering shrubs and perennials adds visual interest to the garden. They also look beautiful with a layer of frost or snow.

Branching structure

The intricate branching structure of many deciduous trees is easier to appreciate in the winter after leaves have fallen. For example, the trunks and branches of our native sassafras rarely grow completely straight. They often have a wavy or crooked appearance. Take a walk through the Garden, your neighborhood, or a local park and compare the branching structures of different trees.

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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