15 Trees and Shrubs for Winter Colour
Trees and shrubs chosen for their winter interest play a large part in gardens, they come into their own when summer shrubs are finishing and the autumn glow from deciduous trees is beginning to pale. Evergreen trees and shrubs planted alongside bright coloured winter foliage serve to provide much-needed interest. Not only do winter trees look good they also provide essential food for wildlife in the form of berries, nuts, seeds and cones and shelter too.
Many of the suggestions I have made can be grown as trees or shrubs depending on how they are pruned and maintained.
I have suggested 15 trees and shrubs for winter colour under the following headings, I hope they give you some ideas and inspiration for your garden.
- Trees and Shrubs for Winter Foliage
- Trees for Colourful Bark
- Evergreen Trees and Shrubs for Winter Colour
Add some winter wow factor to your outdoor space and grow any of the following trees or shrubs as a winter focal point or plant in groups for more impact.
Trees and Shrubs for Winter Foliage
Acer are probably the most popular for autumn and winter colour, their leaf colour can last well into early winter, until any high winds blows all the leaves off.
Their versatility and ease of maintenance make them a good choice. They can also be grown in containers, so even the smallest of spaces can enjoy some winter foliage colour.
There are several varieties of Gavillea, they have evergreen, spiky foliage and clusters of tiny, waxy flowers from shades of pink through to crimson red. In a sheltered spot they can flower most of the year. They enjoy full sun. In a very cold winter they may suffer some damage but any dieback can be pruned out in spring.
Gravillea can be grown as large shrubs, hedging or trees.
Cornus Variegata or Wedding Cake Tree
Even though ‘Variegata’ is a deciduous tree, it’s strongly tiered branches give it a lovely shape, which is quite striking in winter. It bears narrow ovate green leaves, margined with cream that turn yellow in autumn. Small, cream flowers are followed by black berries.
A winter flowering cherry bearing clusters of white/ pale pink semi-double flowers from November through to early spring. A very pretty, small deciduous tree of spreading habit, it’s leaves turn to yellow in autumn. It enjoys full sun and is happy in most soils.
This has to be one of my personal favourites, known also as the “burning bush” the alatus is deciduous and the foliage turns a deep, crimson red in autumn and winter. It bears small flowers, followed by pink berries, so plenty of interest all year. Happy with most soils and a sunny aspect.
Trees for Colourful Bark
We sometimes forget that Winter interest can be provided by bark on trees and shrubs. It is often overlooked in favour of more flowers. The trees/shrubs below provide strong upright forms as well as incredible colours. Plant the shrubs in groups for maximum effect, plant the trees where you can see and enjoy the bark. If you can place them in your sight line from say the kitchen window or where you sit in your lounge then you can appreciate them more.
As the low winter sun catches them they will literally light up the space.
Winter bark is truly worth considering when buying trees.
Paperbark Maple Griseum
Paperbark Griseum is a slow growing, small deciduous tree.
Grow them in a sheltered position in moist but well-draining soil. On a sunny winters day after the deep red autumn foliage has fallen the spectacular bark takes over the winter show. The rusty/ brown bark peels in loose tatters and looks really attractive.
Betula Grayswood ghost
Betula Grayswood Ghost has an upright, rounded form growing to 8 metres with a spread of 4 metres in 20 years and is in my mind one of the best white stemmed birches.
It is ideal grown as a specimen tree for its fantastic winter interest and is a resilient variety that tolerates most conditions and soil types.
It’s silvery white bark lights up the garden. Planted in groups, if you have the space to do so, their ghostly forms look spectacular.
An ornamental cherry grown for its beautiful pink spring blossom and for its striking bark. The silky smooth bark is tactile and glows a deep copper red in winter.
It prefers full sun and tolerates most soil types.
Some Eucalyptus can grow to be huge trees, but rest assured if you don’t have the space to accommodate one then there are plenty of smaller varieties, some of which can be grown in containers.
UK grown trees are generally hardy and best planted in spring or summer.
They are evergreen with silvery blue leaves, they flower in late spring to summer.
Eucalyptus shed their bark naturally, leaving different colours of the new bark beneath, colours can vary from copper, peach, grey, silver and orange, a rainy day really deepens the shades and makes them shine.
Cornus Midwinter fire
Cornus can be deciduous shrubs or trees with brightly coloured young stems. Tiny flowers are borne in dense clusters, sometimes with showy bracts. If pruned hard in spring they will reward you with vivid autumn colour stems
‘Midwinter Fire’ is a lovely example and grows to about 2m tall, bright orange-red and yellow young shoots bear oval leaves with white flowers in summer. Planted in groups their coloured stems add winter wow factor to your garden.
Evergreen Trees and Shrubs for Winter Colour
Evergreen trees and shrubs make fantastic focal points in gardens as well as providing much-needed background colour and form. They can be used as boundary planting to emphasis the space that you have and will help to provide texture and add perspective. In deep midwinter when there is very little else going on they give definition, colour and interest, they look beautiful in the snow too.
This looks good against a sunny wall, it is a small evergreen shrub with blue/green, oval leaves and vivid yellow clusters of pea type flowers in late winter and early spring.
These can be grown as trees or shrubs, they add form and colour, paired with other plants of similar colours they look quite striking. The purple foliage of pittosporum Tom Thumb is particularly attractive shrub variety and will retain its deep purple tones right though winter and then the new spring growth is bright green.
Berberis have upright, prickly, vigorous growth, Darwinii has distinctive orange flowers in spring as well as berries in autumn providing all year round interest. They make ideal hedging plants or shrubs. Also, a useful plant to fill an awkward spot in the garden, very easy to grow and maintain.
Berberis Pink Queen is a compact, deciduous variety with gorgeous deep purple/red autumn/early winter foliage.
Attractive to bees and birds too.
Holly is a most popular tree. There are so many types of holly and they really come in to their own in winter planted amongst deciduous trees and shrubs. Berries can vary from yellow, orange or red. Variegated holly looks fantastic as does the deep green varieties. Good for adding structure and shape, and if course they provide essential winter food for the birds.
There are so many varieties of conifers from dwarf to, well, enormous. They provide structural interest and definition in the winter garden. Planted in groups or standalone they are attractive shrubs or trees. Requiring very little care except for a yearly trim they are perfect for a low maintenance winter scheme.
Colours range from deep green, blues, through gold/greens and silvery greens so there is plenty of choice. There are conifers to suit any garden size or design.
These are small shrubs with dark green foliage, they bear tiny white flowers that a highly fragrant, and purple/black berries in autumn. They do well in a sunny spot or shade, and are fairly tolerant of dry conditions. They are happy on most soil types as long as it is free draining. Perfectly happy in containers, I have grown them as standards in pots under planted with bulbs and summer bedding. Viburnum come in many lovely varieties and are a good choice for any garden.
Planting and Care
Optimum planting time for most trees and shrubs is between September and February, Plant now and your new additions will require little maintenance or attention
The soil still holds the summers’ warmth, and should be easy to dig. Roots will settle in quickly and start to establish themselves before the weather and ground becomes too wet and cold.
General pruning maybe required if you want to keep them in shape and from becoming too big or unwieldy. For further suggestions on trees and shrubs read trees for small gardens and evergreen flowering shrubs, combined with plants for winter colour they make a lovely show through the winter months.
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As do Gardening Express and Thompson and Morgan, in fact click on any of the well known and trusted adverts on my website for all your plants bulbs, seeds and garden supplies and don’t forget trees also make a lovely, unusual gift that keeps on growing.
I hope you have found this article useful and inspiring, please let me know your thoughts in the comments box below. Please share with friends and family and social media.