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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Add a Bit of Color to the Winter Landscape

Mockingbird perched in an American Cranberrybush
Unless there is freshly fallen snow on the ground, many people see the winter landscape as grey, stark and boring. But like many things, it is all how one looks at it. The skeletal formation of trees can be of interest and another means of tree identification. Evergreens not only remain green all year long,  but provide a source of cone seeds and protective shelter amidst the branches.The understory bushes and small trees can be of great help to wildlife survival during the winter months through the abundance of berries. Those berries add a wonderful splash of red color to a drab scenic view.
When planning your landscaping choices of plants, it is better to choose natives for your area. Of the selections listed below, the Winterberry Holly, the Viburnum American Cranberry bush, the Red Osier or Red Twig Dogwood and the American Barberry are native to the U.S. but the Maiden grass is originally from Asia. 
  American Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum)
The American Cranberry Bush is a tree for all seasons. During the spring it is covered with lacy white flowers and by summers end those flowers develop into beautiful red berries which cling to the bush throughout the winter months. Come spring when the birds begin their migrations back to their nesting grounds, these bushes are finally stripped clean. 
Pictured below are a group of cedar waxwings who paid a short visit during the month of March. They arrived in large numbers, raided the berries, and then were gone. 
Cedar Waxwings on a weeping cherry willow tree
 A real beauty for the yard or garden setting is the Winterberry Holly, as it only reaches 10 - 15 feet tall. Its bright red berries make this bush very handy for holiday decorating.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Red Twig Dogwood is popular for winter color. If it is cut back to the ground in early spring, the plant will send up new bright red shoots and won't get gangly and woody. 

American Barberry
The thorny, shrubby bush called Barberry is popular at garden centers. Try to find the American Barberry rather than the Japanese Barberry. As with many non-native species, the Asian varieties can threaten the habitat of the natives.
Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)

Maidengrass doesn't offer berries but if not cut back till spring, the grass seed heads offer a food source and the plant itself provides shelter. The 5 - 6 foot plant adds interest as it waves in the breeze and breaks up the grey of winter with its pretty shades of tan.