by Teresa Kluver
Winter flowers and fruit fill our gradually darkening days with natural beauty, in the landscape and in seasonal decorations for our homes. In addition, many year-round plants have interesting stem colors and bark textures that are more striking in wintertime. These plants are beautiful when they are incorporated into indoor foliage arrangements.
Nearly any plant can be used for winter decoration. The use of some, however, requires more advance planning. For example, hydrangea flowers, roses, and the seed heads of large alliums – all wonderful dried – need to be harvested in summer and preserved for later use. The leaves of hosta and other foliage plants, which are beautiful in summer floral arrangements, are also not available fresh during the winter months.
Never fear if you haven’t gotten around to drying your hydrangea blossoms: there are a number of plants that are naturally beautiful in winter. You can use them to add winter interest to arrangements of typical holiday plants such as holly, evergreen boughs, and poinsettias.
Branches of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis), Wintersweet (Chimnonanthus), and Sarcococca can be cut, placed in water, and, when kept at room temperature, encouraged to bloom indoors. The perennial Lenten Rose (Hellebore) also blooms in late winter. Their nodding blossoms are best displayed floated in water. All of these plants bloom outdoors in the winter, so enjoy them in your yard too.
Colorful stems – dried or living – can add an architectural element to any floral arrangement. And, winter time is when stem color is most evident outdoors. The bright red and yellow stems of the shrubby dogwoods can brighten a dreary outdoor corner and provide material for your indoor floral displays
Although rose blooms need preservation to be included in winter flower arrangements, their fruit does not. Rose hips in varying colors of pink, orange, red, and purple are lush additions to winter arrangements. Delay cutting back those roses and enjoy the fruit of these plants indoors. Other interesting fruit options are the white fruit of Snowberry (Holodiscus) and the bright lavender fruit of Beautyberry (Callicarpa).
The winter garden can be dramatic and beautiful, and also provide you with great decorations for your holiday displays. Visit the Washington Park Arboretum’s winter garden in January for a true sensory experience of sight and scent. Although the garden is beautiful year round, this area of the Arboretum really shines during the winter months.
Have you put your garden to rest? Many of us savor the long end of summer, become busy as school starts and the holidays approach, and suddenly realize after the first of year that our gardens are in dire need of attention. If this sounds familiar, a quick clean up might include pruning dormant perennials, removing of leaves, and applying a warm blanket of mulch.