Even though we’ve had a fairly wimpy winter this year, I have to admit to a little bit of the Winter Blahs setting in from time to time. One thing I’ve found to be a good cure for winter doldrums is taking walks outside and soaking in some of the delights of winter landscapes.
This time of the year, I crave color. Much of the outdoors is drab white and grey, so when I encounter color in my winter travels, it’s a real delight. Some of my favorite landscape plants for providing at least some color are red twig dogwoods, flowering crabs like the dwarf ‘Firebird’ with its nice red persistent fruit that lasts all winter, highbush cranberries, winterberry, the golden brown to russet stems of switch grass and oak varieties that hang onto their reddish brown leaves most if not all of the winter.
For as long as I can remember my favorite type of forest has been the mixed deciduous and conifer forests of northern Minnesota and the other northern tier states. Even when the fiery golds, oranges, reds and burgundys of peak fall color have faded away, the mixed forests have plenty of visual interest. Spruces, pine and fir provide the winter greenery with nice accents from white barked birches, native Mountain Ash berries, and especially the oaks! In a winter landscape, the rich brown leaves of several oak varieties add some very sizeable masses of winter interest.
Some oak varieties drop their leaves in October and November, such as the Bur Oak and White Oak. Other oaks hang onto their leaves for most of the winter such as Northern Pin Oak, Swamp White Oak, Eastern Pin Oak and Crimson Spire Oak and juvenile Northern Red Oaks. The beautiful brown/mahogany leaves that persist on the oak trees when other tree branches are bare, add color, texture, and visual counterpoint to winter landscapes.
Adding oaks that retain leaves throughout the winter to your landscape is an easy way to create a high level of winter interest. By adding scattered evergreens, paper birch clumps, Showy Mountain Ash, massed Cardinal Red Twig Dogwood, highbush cranberries, Ironwood, winterberry and Eastern Wahoo with the oaks you can paint the winter landscape with a rich tapestry of color, texture and form.
Come in this spring and check out all the great woody plants that can chase away the winter blahs. Knecht’s Nurseries – “Where Plants and People Meet”.