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Plants for the Winter Landscape

Creating a landscape that flows effortlessly through all four seasons takes intentional thought and planning. Unlike other building tasks that require a specific order, designing a year round landscape can be approached in numerous ways.

The common thought is that the spring and summer gardens are designed first since those are the seasons that people tend to be outdoor most often. Creative Services Specialist and designer Sandy DeFoe shares an alternative suggestion. Sandy prefers to create her winter plan first, making sure that there is interest for that season. Once she is satisfied with her winter plan, she next adds plants that give a fall display. Finally, she moves on to summer and then spring. Following her suggestion assures a four season landscape. 

Other designers have different strategies. Dan Nelson, Senior Designer at Embassy, tends to create his designs by layers. He first looks to permanent plants- trees and shrubs-  then to perennials and grasses with strong structures. These tend to be taller plants that provide interest all year long. Next he selects more mid-sized filler perennial plants and finally ground plants. His technique makes it easy to develop plant communities that complement one another and provide year round interest.



Example of completed plan. Design by Dan Nelson

Example of completed plan. Design by Dan Nelson


Regardless of the design process used, knowing the characteristics of the plant material is essential to design success. Following is a listing of some of Embassy Landscape Group’s favorite plants in the winter landscape.Please call or contact them for help with your winter design.

Plants with Berries


Possum Haw Holly –  yellow to maroon fall leaves; red berries on bare branches


Possum Haw Holly

Possum Haw Holly


Staghorn Sumac  –   flaming red fall leaves; fuzzy red berries in cluster

Crabapple – yellow fall leaves; red, yellow or orange berries

Beautyberry – yellow fall leaves; large clusters of red berries


beauty berry

Beauty berry


Heavenly Bamboo – red fall leaves; red berries in large clusters

Winterberry Holly – red berries on bare branches


 Plants with Interesting Bark/Twigs


American Sycamore  –  sculptural shape and spectacular white and brown bark


American Sycamore

American Sycamore


Paperbark Cherry – shiny reddish-brown peeling bark

Red/Yellow Twig Dogwood – masses of stems and twigs in red or yellowish-green (beautiful in clusters)

Harry Lauder’s walking stick – twisted and contorted limbs and branches spread to a low, broad shape


harry lauders Walking Stick

Harry Lauders Walking Stick


Common Ninebark – tough shrub with peeling bark


Plants with Seedpods or Dried Flowers


Oak Leaf Hydrangea – large flower heads that remain through the winter


Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea


Echinacea purpurea –  arresting seed pods that attract birds throughout the winter

Monarda – large, spherical seed heads on stiff stems

Siberian Iris – long, dark seedpods throughout the winter

Sedum, Autumn Joy – beautiful flat seed heads that remain throughout the winter

Hardy Hybiscus – round pods that burst open to spread seed


Hardy Hybicus

Hardy Hybicus