Grasses as Accessories
Ornamental grasses add upright, arching and mounding forms to the winter garden, as well as movement. As a bonus, many have seeds that attract birds.
Maiden grass tops the list of great grasses for winter, and includes Miscanthus purpurascens, floridulus and the many sinensis cultivars. They are generally tall (four feet and up) and gracefully arching grasses that turn coppery in the fall, fading to light tan in the winter. Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’ or ‘Karl Foerster’) is more upright and stiff.
In areas with little snow, shorter grasses can stand out, especially
groups of mounders like blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)
and various Carex cultivars. Switch grass (Panicum virgatum)
cultivars like ‘Rehbraun’ and ‘Huron Solstice’ turn a lovely
reddish hue during the winter.
In the muted landscape, color accents from fruits and bark can really catch the eye. Many crabapple varieties keep their fruits well into winter, as do trees like cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli), with its dark red fruit and visible thorns, and various mountain ashes (Sorbus spp.), with their reddish orange berries. Shrub choices abound – viburnums of all kinds, hollies, certain chokecherries, coralberries and more. All hold their bright red, orange or purplish berries well into the season.
Distinctive branches or bark stand out. The burgundy-red stems of red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) jump to mind, along with its kin, the yellow 'Flaviramea' and orange 'Flamemound'. For dark purple-burgundy stems, look for certain Japanese barberries (Berberis thunbergii) or purple-leafed sandcherry (Prunus x cistena). Trees like paperbark maple (Acer griseum), amur chokecherry (Prunus maackii) and redbud (Cercis canadensis) all feature reddish peeling bark.
If that's not enough – or if it's too much! – find some winter-hardy containers to fill with evergreen, contorted and berried branches and arrange them outside your window.
Finally, sit back and enjoy the winter view.