Color is an integral part of any landscape plan, and in the fall, spring, and summer, a gardener can depend upon flowering trees, shrubs, and plants to supply color to the landscape. But in the winter, a gardener must be a bit more creative when selecting accents and focal points.

Evergreens, especially, play an important role in the winter landscape. Green is a dominant color, and a landscape design using different shades of green can be appealing. But there are many other aspects of a winter garden that can make it unique, such as trees with interesting exfoliating barks or brightly colored stems. Many shrubs and trees offer berries that look like bright, shiny jewels against winter foliage. Ornamental grass can flaunt colorful plumes and seed heads. The bare branches of deciduous trees act as natural sculptures in the garden.

Too much of a good thing can ruin the look of any landscape, no matter the season. Gardeners should use no more than a few well-placed accents or the result will be chaos. Be especially conservative with variegated plants, as they can overpower the other plants in the garden. Don’t be afraid to drive around and look at other winter landscapes for inspiration. A gardener whose design has been copied should be pleased that his ideas were so well liked.

When planning a landscape, don’t ignore winter in the garden. It will be different, no doubt, but if presented properly, the winter garden can be just as exciting as a garden full of tulips.

Donna Teasley is an extension agent in Burke County. This article appeared as a guest column in the October 2012 Gardening Newsletter.

This story was published on

Since 1933, Our State has shared stories about North Carolina with readers both in state and around the world. We celebrate the people and places that make this state great. From the mountains to the coast, we feature North Carolina travel, history, food, and beautiful scenic photography.