Winters may be long and cold, but your garden can allay that dreariness and be transformed into a place of natural beauty with visually arresting textures, colors, fragrance and flowers. To create such beautiful winter scene, you need to make sure you select the right plants. Here is a list of shrubs, trees, bulbs that will help you enjoy the winter season in a beautiful new way.

Attractive Winter Bark

Bark becomes an important ornamental element in winter when the shedding of leaves exposes trunks and branches and reveals its glory. From warty to smooth, peeling to furrowed, tobacco to cinnamon-red, salmon-pink or stark white, the variety of bark colors and textures is fascinating. Often, varying bark textures can be admired on the same tree, and this adds a most attractive and stunning character during winter. Don't overlook the lenticels, those pleasing raised bands irregularly arranged along the surface of the bark!

Favorite plants with attractive bark include Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple), Acer palmatum 'Sango-Kaku' or 'Eddisbury' (Coral Bark Maple), Acer triflorum (three-flowered maple), Betula (Birch), Heptacodium miconiodes (Seven-Son Flower), Hypericum kalmianum (Kalm St. Johnswort), Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood), Prunus serrula (Tibetan Cherry), Stewartia pseudocamellia (Japanese Stewartia)

Shrubs and trees with attractive winter bark

Colorful or Distinctive Stems and Twigs

A quick and easy way to add dramatic winter interest is to plant deciduous shrubs or trees with colorful stems and twigs. Attracting the eye with their bright, showy colors, the twigs may be brilliant scarlet, olive-green, greenish-yellow or even black. They may be straight or enjoy lovely curling shapes. 

Plants to consider are Cornus alba 'Siberica' or 'Kesselringii' (Tatarian Dogwood), Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' or 'Annie's Winter Orange' (Bloodtwig Dogwood), Cornus sericea 'Cardinal' or 'Flaviramea' (Redosier Dogwood). These plants can be planted separately or mixed together, for a tapestry of winter color. Other particularly attractive options include Corylus avellana 'Contorta' (Harry Lauder's Walking Stick), Salix alba (Willow)

All these plants are cold-hardy, versatile, fast-growing and of great appeal in other seasons too, with stunning fall color, attractive berries, or lush summer foliage. 

Shrubs and trees with colorful stems and twigs in winter

Winter Fruits and Berries

Some trees and shrubs display beautiful fruits in late summer or fall, which persist into winter. In a glorious display of crimson, orange, yellow or even purple, their attractive fruits adorn their branches in eye-catching bouquets, which gleam like jewels in the soft sunlight. In addition, the fruits of some species provide wild birds with high protein food. If you wish to admire berries in the winter, you need to select trees or shrubs with fruits that the birds shun until spring.

Plants to consider for their cheerful fruits include Aronia (Chokeberry), Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry), Callicarpa (Beautyberry), Celastrus (Bittersweet), Ilex (Holly), Malus (Crab Apple), Symphoricarpos (Snowberry) or Vibernum.

Some roses produce equally attractive red-orange hips that last well into winter such as Rosa rugosa, Rosa moyesii or Rosa glauca.

Shrubs and trees with attractive fruits and berries in winter

Ornamental Grasses

Attractive, easy to grow and low maintenance, ornamental grasses are invaluable additions to the winter garden. Waving gracefully in the slightest breeze, they add movement to the garden, but also texture and color since most warm up to shades of bronze, tan or russet in the cooler months to create an impressive display. They offer a rich and interesting contrast with emerald evergreens, bright crimson berries and crisp white snow. In addition, many are a source of food and shelter for birds.

Recommended ornamental grasses for winter interest are Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats), Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted Hair Grass), Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed), Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass), Carex oshimensis 'Evergold' (Sedge), Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea (Moor Grass), Calamagrostis brachytricha (Reed Grass), Liriope muscari (Blue Lily Turf), Festuca glauca (Blue Fescue), or Calamagrostis x acutiflora (Feather Reed Grass).

Great ornamental grasses for the winter garden

Cheerful Winter Flowers

While flowers are usually associated with spring or summer, they can also contribute to the beauty of the winter garden. Adapted to endure harsh winter conditions, they bring the garden to life with their bright, showy colors and attract the eye.

Most people celebrate daffodils as the harbingers of spring, without being aware that many other plants flower much earlier.

Plants to consider for their cheerful flowers include Helleborus (Hellebores), Hamamelis (Witch Hazel), Erica (Heath), Camellias, Iris reticulata (Dwarf Iris), Chimonanthus praecox (Wintersweet), Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry), Lonicera fragrantissima (Sweetest Honeysuckle), Corylopsis pauciflora (Buttercup Winterhazel), Stachyurus praecox (Early Stachyurus), Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite), Viola odorata (Sweet Violet), Cyclamen coum (Persian Violet).

Pretty flowers for your winter garden