Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
December, 2000
Regional Report

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'Scarlett O'Hara' winterberry sparkles in the winter sun.

A Colorful Winter Landscape

Sometimes it takes a real boot to get me out the door in winter - especially when winter comes earlier than usual like it did this year. Happily, my kids are always ready to nudge me out of my reluctance to go outside to play with them.

Seeing the Colors of Winter

I love being out in the winter landscape. So often we concentrate only on a flash of spring flowers or fleeting fall color, but winter has incredible color as well. Walking in or even gazing out the window at a bright, colorful winter landscape elevates my spirits and prevents the doldrums of short days and cold weather from taking hold.

Colorful Stems and Berries

I remember noting the beautiful white berries of redtwig dogwoods in midsummer, but I paid no attention to their nondescript greenish stems. Now that the leaves have fallen, those stems have turned a stunning crimson.

Nature decorates crabapples, cranberry viburnums, and winterberries with scarlet berries that remain long after the leaves are gone. The brooding blackness of bur oak against an ash sky produces a somewhat somber tone that is happily juxtaposed with brighter colors of papery amber birch seeds strewn across a snowy blanket.

Interesting Patterns

Plants reveal distinct, often extreme forms as they shed their fall finery. We suddenly understand where pagoda dogwood gets its name when the horizontal branching stands starkly against a brick wall. The weeping willow is never so delicate and airy when clothed for summer as it is in winter. Without leaves, we see a plant's bare bones, such as bittersweet snaking and twisting along a stone wall or the distinct pyramidal linden thrusting its branches skyward.

Bark Colors

The winter sun seems to shed twice as much light, especially when bouncing off the shiny purple bark of a Japanese tree lilac or a cinnamon Amur chokecherry. During summer months, bark color is often masked by lush foliage, but in winter it becomes a focal point. Great examples I see are shagbark hickory's long, lightly curled plates and the crispy, papery pink-cinnamon-white bark of river birch.

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