In the Garden:
Rocky Mountains
January, 2004
Regional Report

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Now is the time to appreciate the apricot tree's unique bark and structural beauty.

The Garden in Winter

Winter can be a long season in our region, with many weather variations. Snow may be abundant or scarce, depending upon your location. Some days are warm and mild while others are frigid. Yet some of our most wonderful garden scenes occur in winter. You just need to get outdoors and look around your landscape.

Plants With Winter Interest
Bare branches are coated with a frosty blanket, the burgundy red berries of the Russian hawthorn shine against crystalline snow, ornamental grasses are frosted with ice crystals, and different textures of bark on trees and shrubs is openly revealed. We can easily see the rough bark of burr oak, tire-tread bark patterns on green ash, exfoliating, buckskin bark on birch, flattened, wing-like structures on the dwarf winged euonymus, and bright, shiny, red bark on the new growth of redtwig dogwood. With proper planning, your winter garden will sparkle with interesting textures and forms.

Two of my favorite native shrubs are the Rocky Mountain sumac (Rhus glabra) and the familiar staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). Both of these shrubs are often frowned upon because of their aggressive growth, but if you have the space to let them sprawl, you won't be disappointed. In winter, fuzzy red berries are held aloft the tips of stocky branches.

The apricot tree is another favorite for its bark and attractive branch structure.

Ornamental grasses add form, structure, and movement to the winter garden. The miscanthus grasses are among the latest to bloom, yet their wispy seed plumes glisten with a touch of frost against a clear blue sky. Blue avena grass will hold on to its evergreen-like foliage -- with its steely blue coloration -- until a hard freeze dries the clump into a mixture of gold and pewter tones for the remainder of the winter.

Garden Elements
Plants are not the only items that make the winter garden unique and wonderful. By now, large stones, brick and stone walls, benches, and garden sculpture reemerge from the green camouflage of summer. This should remind us that these elements help create a garden almost as much as the plants do.

Winter should be more than a season of dormancy and endurance; it provides a chance to appreciate the landscape from a different perspective.


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