For impact, just a few winter trees and shrubs can be the equivalent of a double border in summer. Off-season gardens require a lot more imagination than actual effort. A glowing group of slowly defoliating stems, followed by snowdrops: that’s a third of the gardening year taken care of. We go to Cambridge in England to learn from the garden at Anglesey Abbey.
Photography by Kendra Wilson, except where noted.
Above: A trio of Mahonia, Cornus, and Acer palmatum glow against a dark backdrop of yew.
Above: Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Orange’ against the “ghost bramble” Rubus cockburnianus.
Above: Choose a rose with excellent spikes and pretty yellowing leaves which do the whole genus credit, like this ‘Mount Emei’ rose.
Above: Banks of Cornus, a winter monoculture which can be as effective as a trio of different species.
Above: The amazing box elder (Acer negundo), with warm-hued willow (Salix alba) nearby. Almost everything is pollarded in this garden including these trees, as the young growth reacts to cold. The more frost, the more a winter garden glows.
Above: Not convinced about Mahonia? The flowers are scented for one, and on closer inspection the flowers are rather lovely. They are a good yellow for dismal days.
Above: Eye level berries are one of the best things about autumn and winter, usually shining out from dark hedgerows. Cotoneaster lacteus is dripping with berries and would dominate the holly were it not variegated. Variegated plants are a must in dark areas.
Above: This Tibetan cherry looks especially brilliant against a backdrop of yellow cornus. Its bark is stroked frequently by passersby, keeping it shiny and taut. Left untouched, the bark would curl up like wood shavings. A multi-stemmed Prunus serrula like this one gives you more bark to stroke and has a similar effect to a pollarded tree: you can see through it and around it.
For more winter color see 5 Favorites: Add Color to the Winter Garden.