Planting for winter interest…

Ok. So, it is early spring here in Colorado – as well as the rest of the northern hemisphere.  We are all wanting to put winter behind us at this point even though winter is not wanting to fade. It has been chilly, cloudy and windy here the past few days. Why, then you wonder, am I still thinking about winter?  The answer is all about my main spring planting project, our front planting bed – and a new little addition we refer to as “Shrubbie”.

I’ve been getting our front planting bed in order over the last few weeks with the stacked stone redo and soil preparation. This last weekend, the weather (and Tad) finally cooperated and we got some plantings in.


Choosing plants for this bed has always been a challenge because it is a southeast corner bed.  This means 3 different microclimates in a small, continuous bed.  We’ve got the 6 foot south facing, hot, sunny, dry strip – to the left in this photo. Then, we move to the part shade/filtered sun corner area – in the middle. Finally, we’ve got the east facing, mostly shade spot – to the far right.


It has had some great moments in springs past…


However, it’s winter moments have not been good at all…


This front planting bed is near the entrance to our house. It is probably one of the most noticeable areas when someone is standing there at the front door looking around.   I feel like it needs to be showy. I think showy is a word.  You know what I mean though, right?  It should look good every season – spring, summer, fall, and winter.  So, that is the goal with this small area of my world – showy every season of the year.  With this in mind, I decided to start with the ever elusive winter interest. Why did I start with winter? Mostly because winter interest involves some sort of shrub or ornamental grass and those plants tend to take up a lot of space. For me, it is easier to plant the big stuff first. Then, fill in with the smaller stuff.

So, first up is Arctic Fire Red Twig Dogwood.  I figure these bright red branches will be looking quite lovely in the winter against some cool white snow.  Especially, when they grow to full size which is supposed to be 2 feet – 4 feet round.  Once these shrubs get to full size, I think they will also look great against the pale blond brick of our house.  As for summer interest, this plant doesn’t have that.  It sounds like it is just a ball of green leaves. So, I will be layering in some flowering summer interest.


I already added some spring bloomers with my new bleeding heart plants – as mentioned in my last post. I think the bleeding hearts will be a good companion plant because they should be disappearing just as the shrubs are leafing out.


To the non garden obsessed out there – I promise to not spend all summer talking about the evolution of my front planting bed – even though it is my main gardening project this year. I realize that it may not be all that interesting, but I do think it is worth a mention when I do layer in another season. You never know – it might be the next best thing in landscape inspiration? You might learn something new and different? I might learn something new and different?

Anyway. I digress. Sorry. Back to planting for winter interest…

Next on our winter interest list is our new addition, “Shrubbie”.


Shrubbie almost deserves his own post.  It has been a long road to getting an evergreen incorporated into our landscape. However, I will try to keep it short and sweet – just like Shrubbie.

Here’s the story:

  • Tad has been talking about wanting a miniature Blue Spruce for a while  – at least of a couple of years.
  • When he says mini Blue Spruce he means one that stays 2-4 feet tall.
  • We spend many a free minute searching the plant world for a mini Blue Spruce.  We can’t find one.
  • I find a few possible evergreen options at my favorite nursery last weekend – one is sort of a Blue Spruce.
  • We go to check them out.
  • Tad’s dream of a mini Blue Spruce quickly gets cut from the list because the needles are very prickly – painfully prickly.
  • The other options are also scrapped because of prickly needles.
  • Then we see Shrubbie – his needles are soft and non-prickly. He will only grow to be 2-4 feet wide and 2 feet high. Sold.
  • Shrubbie’s got a new home – greeting our guests as they approach our house.


Shrubbie will stay green year round. We think he will be our winter beauty…