PLANTS TO BRIGHTEN YOUR WINTER SOLSTICE
Some days winter can be dark, gray, bleak and seem almost lifeless. For people who love plants it can be a tough stretch. The lack of color, warmth and sun can be hard to deal with but don’t despair. There are some bright spots and some real treats in the winter landscape.
We have put together a list of plants that can offer some beauty and visual cheer. These are plants you are going to want to position near a favorite window or a place easy see from the driveway. Let’s face it when its warm you don’t mind walking across the yard to see plants in bloom when it’s cold you just want to go inside. Plant these purposefully where you can enjoy them from the warmth and comfort of your home.
Here are a few of our favorites for your consideration.
Winterberry Ilex verticilata
Winterberry Ilex verticilata, is a native deciduous holly that grows in wetlands. It is an easy plant to grow as long as its in full sun. It is fairly blasé most of the year but the red berries in the late fall and winter are beautiful. It is great plant to bring in a lot of birds. The only bad news is only female hollies bear fruit so you will need a male to pollenate the females.
Blue Holly, Ilex Meserve species, is a very tough evergreen that can grow almost anywhere. Its shiny dark green foliage and red fruit (on females) is very pretty.
American holly, Ilex opaca, is a very large shrub or small native tree. It can be used as a screen plant or as an ornamental. In the late fall and winter the females red berries are beautiful and it’s a great plant for birds.
Red Choke Cherry
Red Choke Cherry, Prunus virginiana is a large shrub or small native tree. It is not a very attractive plant except for its fruit. Its fruit persists through the fall into the winter. Red Choke Cherry is another great plant for birds.
Some other Plants with Showy Fruit for Winter Interest
- Winter King Hawthorn
- Crabapples (lots of varieties) Be careful not to plant hawthorns and crabapples near cedars and junipers to avoid rust disease.
- Viburnum (lots of verities)
- Cedars and junipers
Paper birch, Betula papyrifera is the best of the white barked birches. A medium sized native tree usually in clumps of 3 or more stems. When healthy and vigorous its white bark really shines on a winter day. It is an underused tree because people seem to prefer Himalayan and gray birch instead. This is a mistake as paper birch is a beautiful tree.
Paper bark maple
Paper bark maple, Acer griseum, is one of the most popular ornamental trees because of its exceptional cinnamon bark. It also can have beautiful reddish fall color.
Red stem dogwood
Red stem dogwood Cornus sericea is a large multi stem shrub native to wetlands. It has been used more and more in the landscape trade usually with a variegated leaf (leaves that are hybridized to have multiple colors usually white and green). This is because it is beautiful and tough because it can grow in a wide variety of locations.
Lace bark pine
Lace bark pine Pinus bungeana is a medium to large pine tree grown for its silver and green bark.
Some other Pants with Showy Bark for Winter Interest
- Yellow stem dogwood
- River birch
- Sargent Cherry
- Korean dogwood
- Japanese Stewartia
- Seven sun flower
Arnold Promise Witch Hazel
Arnold Promise Witch Hazel Hamamelis intermedia Promise Arnold A large shrub that blooms in late February in the Boston area. It is a great sign of spring, blooming much earlier than any other woody plant.
Birgit Witch Hazel
Birgit Witch Hazel Hamamelis intermedia Birgit is similar in shape and size to Arnold Promise with red/orange blooms. These winter flowering which hazels usually offer great fall color also.
Some other Varieties of Witch Hazel that Bloom in Late Winter
- Wisely Supreme
THE US FOREST SERVICE SHARE THE PLANTS OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE
Many of our most cherished holiday traditions revolve around plants and trees. We’re all familiar with the Christmas Tree, decking the halls with boughs of holly, and kissing under the mistletoe, but do you know the origins of these traditions?
The US Forest Service created a great blog about the Plants of the Winter Solstice that you can read here. We thought we’d share a few of the highlights that we found most interesting.
WHAT IS THE WINTER SOLSTICE
The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year. For early cultures, the winter solstice marked the promise of warm, longer days to come and the beginning of the march towards the growing season of spring.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
The tradition of “The Christmas Tree” began as the “Yule Tree.” The modern custom started in central Europe and spread around the continent. The Christmas Tree didn’t become popular in North America in the 19th Century.
Originally, in the United States, the Christmas Tree and similar traditions were frowned upon and seen as pagan. In Massachusetts, Christmas Trees and the celebration of Christmas as a holiday were banned by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
In 1649, Puritans overthrew King Charles I. One of their first acts was to ban the celebration of Christmas and declare December 25th a day of “fasting and humiliation.” In 1659, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony follow suit and made the public celebration of the holiday a criminal offense.
Christmas was legalized again in England in 1660 upon the restoration of the monarchy, but the Christmas ban remained in Massachusetts until 1681. Christmas did not become a public holiday in Massachusetts until 1856.
The Christmas Tree has become a significant tradition in Massachusetts in the subsequent 150-plus years.
THE BOSTON CHRISTMAS TREE
You’re probably familiar with “The National Christmas Tree” in Washington, DC, and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in Manhattan, but did you know that the Boston Christmas Tree is just as historically significant as any Christmas Tree in the United States?
The Boston Christmas Tree is an annual gift from Nova Scotia in Canada. During World War One a major seafaring shipping disaster occurred in Halifax. A French Ship, The Mont Blanc, carrying 2,700 tons of explosives collided with a Norwegian relief ship, The Imo, carrying supplies to Belgium in Halifax Harbor. The Mont Blanc caught fire. The crew abandoned ship, but the boat kept burning and drifted toward the city.
The Mont Blanc and its cargo exploded in the northern part of the city. Two thousand people died and nine thousand were injured. It was the large manmade explosion in history to that point.
Within hours, Bostonians began to help. By the end of the day trains loaded with supplies, doctors, nurses, and food had left Boston for Halifax. Eventually, over $750,000 was donated to the relief effort.
Additionally, Massachusetts established the Massachusetts-Halifax Relief Committee and the Massachusetts-Halifax Health Commission to ensure that Halifax would get the support needed in the following years to recover.
In 1918, the year after the disaster, the city of Halifax sent a Christmas Tree to Boston to thank Bostonians for their kindness and generosity. The tradition did not continue at first, but was revived in 1971 and has continued every year since.
MORE PLANTS YOU CAN GROW IN THE WINTER TO BRIGHTEN UP YOUR SPACE
If you’d like to learn more about growing colorful plants in the winter, check out this video from KTVB featuring master gardener Jim Duthie sharing examples of plants that can thrive in your garden in the coldest months of the year.
The US Forest Service Blog contains additional information about The Yule Log, Mistletoe, Holly, Mushrooms and much more. Again you can give it a look here.