Winter Interest

Winter Interest

Part of Ep. 1004 Winter Interest

Tour Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison with Jeff Epping to learn which plants will provide some visual interest in your garden in the winter time.

Premiere date: Dec 22, 2002

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is a great way to add interest to a winter garden. Unfortunately, most of us can't put a Thai Pavilion in our backyard. We're at Olbrich Gardens in Madison. And I'm with the director of horticulture, Jeff Epping. Jeff, the Thai Pavilion is beautiful, and it just glows, but are there easier ways for me to winter interest in my backyard?

Jeff:
Sure. You don't have room for a Thai Pavilion?

Shelley:
No. I'd love one!

Jeff:
Neither do I. But, no, there's a gamut of ways to do it. One is to add stone work, which is awful nice. You know, it adds interest throughout the seasons, as well as just the winter, an then ornamental grasses, of course.

Shelley:
Evergreens, that we all think of.

Jeff:
Yeah, dwarf conifers. And there's so many different sizes to fit into residential landscapes or bigger landscapes. And then, plants with colorful bark, that's what we're going to look at today. And one of my favorites is called is called Coral Embers Willow, which you see on the right, with the orangey tones to it, a very upright habit. And it's actually a tree in its native habitat, but we cut it back about every other spring.

Shelley:
Really? So this is two years of growth?

Jeff:
That's right.

Shelley:
Wow!

Jeff:
That's right. And we'll cut this one right to the ground this spring, and then it will flush all this new growth on it. We might thin it out a little bit. But generally the more stems, the more color you'll get in the winter. During the summer, they just kind of blend in with the landscape. But, you know, in the dormant season, that's when they really come to life.

Shelley:
That's when they shine.

Jeff:
Right. And then, the one to the left there is another willow called Salix Golden Curls. And that also has a gold coloration to it. But it has a nice architectural quality, with the sort of contorted look to it. And that will get about 20-25 feet tall and wide. And we also cut that one back to the ground every other year.

Shelley:
Okay. So, the younger branches are going to have more color then. That's one of the reasons you're doing it.

Jeff:
Exactly. And there's another cultivar called Scarlet Curls that's very similar in habit. It just has more reddish tones to the bark.

Shelley:
It's really beautiful.

Jeff:
Yeah, they are.

Shelley:
Well, let's talk about some of the smaller things for a real small backyard, or even a shaded area.

Jeff:
Okay. A nice little shrub is called Kerria, Japanese Kerria actually, Kerria japonica. Golden Guinea is a cultivar that we have here that has a greenish coloration to the stems.

Shelley:
Almost chartreuse.

Jeff:
Yeah, it's really an interesting color, very unusual for most plants. And then, another cultivar that we're excited about is one called Kin Kan, which has yellow coloration.

Shelley:
And they're both very low growing, only about up to my knees, right.

Jeff:
Yeah, three feet or so, high and wide. And then they sucker lightly over time to form sort of a mass, but never so that they're troublesome.

Shelley:
Okay, good.

Jeff:
They're a great shade plant, so full sun or shade.

Shelley:
And then, they bloom later in the year, too, so you get another season.

Jeff:
Exactly, and sort of sporadically through the season, nice gold blossoms the size of a quarter, or so. And yeah, a really nice plant.

Shelley:
There's another group that we all think of, the dogwoods. They have a lot of winter interest.

Jeff:
Definitely. And I think that's probably, first and foremost, the group that people think of when they think of colorful twigs in the winter. There are Yellow Twig dogwoods, like a cultivar called Flaviramea, or silver and gold, and there's burgundy, red. But the one that we're really excited about is one called Winter Beauty, Cornus sanguinea, or Blood Twig dogwood. And what's so neat about it is it's sort of a yellow-orange-red, all in the same twig. It sort of grades from one color to the next. And it's a medium shrub, probably five or six feet tall, wide. And just stunning in the winter landscape, really bright.

Shelley:
It almost looks like it's glowing from within. It's really beautiful.

Jeff:
It does. It is a gorgeous plant.

Shelley:
What else? One that I have not tried, but I've seen a lot of people enjoying is the Hazelnut, the Harry Lauders Walking Stick.

Jeff:
Yeah, that's a great plant. The Corylus avellana Contorta. We have a plant in our herb garden that's been in for about five years, or so, it stands about six feet tall. It's very architectural, very, very contorted branches.

Shelley:
It looks tortured!

Jeff:
Yes, it does. Something like you'd see in the Addams family's front yard or something.

Shelley:
So, some people really don't like it. But I could see a lot of spots where it'd be neat.

Jeff:
Yeah, it's really-- With a white background, with snow, it really stands out in a winter landscape. And in the spring, it has catkins, like a birch, that expand and add another interest to the spring season.

Shelley:
And you've got one that's relatively new. I wasn't familiar with it at all.

Jeff:
Seven Son's Flower, or Heptacodium miconioides, has interesting bark to it. It has a very peeling, sort of light tan bark. So, again, that one, you'd like a nice dark background for.

Shelley:
So, plant it, maybe, in front of evergreens, or something like that?

Jeff:
That would be perfect, arbor vitae, spruce, pine or a darker background of a fence, or something like that would work as well. But a very interesting, peeling bark. A shrub about ten feet tall, or so.

Shelley:
So, a little bit on the larger scale. Are there trees you'd recommend?

Jeff:
Yeah. One, a tree lilac. We're all familiar with Japanese Tree Lilac. But there's a cousin, I guess, Peking Lilac, in a cultivar called China Snow, that was selected for the very exfoliated sort of cinnamon colored bark. And, you know, if it's backlit with a light, it really comes to life.

Shelley:
And you get the regular lilac flowers from it later.

Jeff:
Right. In the summer, you'll get beautiful frothy white flowers, as well. So, it's a small-scale tree, probably about 20 feet tall, or so. Just very similar to the Japanese Tree Lilac in dimensions, actually. And then, a maple that we're real excited about is White Tigress. Some people call it Moosewood, or Striped Maple, Snake Bark Maple. It has sort of a greenish bark with white striations in it. It's a very, very beautiful plant.

Shelley:
You get fall color from something like that, too.

Jeff:
It has a very nice clear gold fall color. Again, it's a small-scale tree. They're 20-25 feet tall. It's relatively fast growing if you put it in nice, sort of a cooler environment with some moisture. Like a birch, you don't want to put it out in hot, blazing sun.

Shelley:
North side of the house.

Jeff:
Or eastern exposure. That would work well, too.

Shelley:
And everything we've talked about is pretty hardy here in Wisconsin?

Jeff:
Yeah, I'd say. The Heptacodium would be one that I would be a little cautious about farther north in the state. But for us, it's been real good.

Shelley:
Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff:
You're welcome.

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