For those of us in the northern parts of the U.S., the idea of “winter interest” can be vastly overrated. Birds and deer devour colorful berries before the end of December, and drying winds scorch and tatter evergreen foliage. Multi-day stretches of sub-freezing temperatures zap almost all of the perennials and bulbs touted as being winter bloomers, delaying flowers for weeks or months, and heavy snow can cover the ground layer anyway.
Some years, intriguing stems are about all we have to admire during the dead of winter. Woodies such as bright-barked shrubby dogwoods and willows are welcome for color, but the deer like them too, so it can be unwise to depend on them alone. Sometimes, shrubs with curiously contorted stems are about the best we have for truly unique winter features. Continue Reading →