Short days, low light, dormant plants and old, dirty snow can form dreary winter landscapes. But no matter where you live, you can tackle the winter blues by adding hardy and vibrant vegetation to your landscapes. The following list will give you some inspiration.
Evergreen conifers may seem like an obvious choice, but think of the many ways these needle-leaved evergreens can be used. Pine, spruce, juniper, yew and hemlock offer a wide variety of sizes and shapes that fit well around your home's foundation, in landscape borders and islands, and along the edge of woodland gardens. To add some color to the mix, choose yews, arborvitae and false cypress, which have gold or yellow foliage.
Boxwood, hollies and rhododendrons are just a few of the shrubs that hold their leaves over the winter. Some of the broadleaf evergreens produce berries, which provide even more color, while others add yellow, red or purple leaves to the winter landscape.
Deciduous plants provide interest to your winter garden by adding texture, color and structure. Red-twig dogwoods (Cornus alba) and several varieties of Japanese maples show off bright red bark in the winter. They make great specimen plantings, or plants that stand on their own as ornamentals, when placed in a location that will be highly visible from the street or a window of your house. Paper birch (Betula papyrifera), lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana) and paperbark maple (Acer griseum) provide interest with their textured and patterned barks. Other shrubs add interesting form and structure to your winter garden. Contorted filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') with its twisted branches provides great visual interest.
Although they should be cut back annually, many of these versatile plants can be left standing until early spring to add form, texture and color to your garden over the winter. Their wide variety of heights shapes and seed heads are a nice contrast when placed near evergreen trees and shrubs. They also provide food for colorful winter songbirds. Many types of sedge (Carex) are evergreen or semi-evergreen and can be used to add yellow, cream, blue, and even reddish-orange to your winter garden. You'll want to choose grasses that grow well in your climate.
Some flowering perennials also add interest to the winter garden. Even after their fall color fades, the stems and seed heads of Autumn Joy sedum, coneflower and black-eyed Susan will stand out against the snow in your flowerbeds. Many hellebores, such as Lenten rose, have dark green foliage that persists through cold weather and snow. Lilyturf (Liriope) is an attractive, clumping evergreen with black berries that last into winter.