||The Garden with Snow
Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Wednesday, March 7, 2001
What plants look the best in snow?
Evergreens, with their color, are reassuring in the cold. My favorite "evergreen" (meaning the leaves stay on all year) is actually not green in the winter. Three-foot Leucothoë catesbaie Zebonard turns a dark, handsome purple-red in cold weather. In summer, the glossy, pointed-oval leaves green up; however new growth is always a bright red. The flowers are nondescript. I love flowers, but I also like the interplay of the different colors and textures of foliage; in the winter garden this becomes even more important.
Some plants have forms which stay interesting even when theyre dead and brown. The dry flower stalks of Autumn Joy Sedum, for example, make a great sculptural effect sticking up out of snow. Trees too can have great sculptural effects when bare, for example the famous Harry Lauders Walking Stick (which is so amazingly twisty because its infected with a virus). The front right corner of our yard needs something like this; Harry would get too tall there, though. Im looking for a little Japanese Maple with just the right lean to it.
In the back yard theres a place Im thinking of putting a Tartarian Dogwood Ivory Halo. Although this shrub can grow ten feet tall, year-old stems have an intense red color, and so its often cut to the ground every spring for color the next winter. I can just see thickets of those bright red stems in snow. (In warm weather its striking, too, with variegated leaves.)
Of what I have growing already, my favorite plant in snow is a Purple Reed Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens). This three-foot, arching grass is supposed to turn red in August; mine, which doesnt get enough sun, only achieves a golden pink but its still showy. Then the silvery, plume-like flowers open in September, swaying above the leaves on stems a foot taller. When frost hits, the leaves turn beige, but the plant stays decorative, looking like a two-level fountain.
I planted it in the middle of the walk to the front door, in a spot that needed something attention-getting. I was disappointed when Ward didnt appreciate its graceful shape the first summer. But in February he came in from snowblowing the walk one day, and called me to the door, to see it with snow on the plumes. It sparkled with the magic of snow: a perfect accent, and the high point of my winter garden.
© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark