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Curating a Four-Season Plant Palette: Two Plants for a Pop of Winter Color

I know winter is the last thing on anyone’s mind right now, but if you’re considering planting any shrubs this year, you still need to consider how they’ll look in the winter. When you think of plants with winter interest, you probably think of evergreens. After all, they’re the only plants that aren’t merely bare brown twigs in the cold months, right? Wrong.

Enter winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) and Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea). Both of these plants add a nice contrasting pop of red in any landscape. First, let’s talk about winterberry. While most hollies keep their leaves year-round, the winterberry sheds its leaves, revealing branches clustered with tiny, bright red berries. Not only do these berries add a much-needed pop of color in a barren winter landscape, but they also feed the birds that stick around in the winter months.

One thing to keep in mind is that only female plants produce fruit. Luckily, we have access to some amazing female-only cultivars of winterberry like “Red Sprite”, “Sparkle Berry”, and “Winter Red”. In order for these plants to fruit, though, they need a male plant to pollinate them. The general rule of thumb is that you need one male plant for every five female plants. This presents a fun design challenge, because you want these non-fruiting plants to fit into the design year-round without drawing too much attention to their bare branches.

Now let’s take a look at the red twig dogwood. In spring, Cornus sericea has pretty clusters of white flowers, and in the summer and fall it may look like any ordinary deciduous shrub. In winter, though, red-twig dogwood really has its moment to shine. Once the leaves drop, its bright red branches are revealed. These bright red canes look great in front of an evergreen backdrop and stand out against other deciduous trees and shrubs that lack winter interest.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to wait around for springtime to see beauty and color outside your window. Contact us today and we would be happy to design a landscape with a plant palette that’ll keep you smiling year-round!

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