Winter is now upon us, and with the new season comes an appreciation of a new set of plants. The plants that shone over the summer and fall now fade into the background, and only a select group of plants earn our admiration during the gray days of winter. What are our Garden staff’s favorites for the winter season? Read on!

Roseann: Scouring rush (Equisetum hymale)

This native horsetail spreads when happy, but in gardens only rarely does it achieve the weediness of its widespread and dreaded relative, the common horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Roseann appreciates it architectural character – plant it and you’ll enjoy texture and color year round. It adds a striking element to winter gardens. Scouring rush thrives in a wetland, stream bank, or moist spot, but can also do well in drier areas of your garden.

Scouring rush stems (photo by Roseann Barnhill).

Heidi: Red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Another vigorous native, red-twig dogwood is commonly planted in both re-vegetation projects and as an ornamental in gardens. Why? It has striking red fall color, white flowers, berries for birds, and lovely red hues to its new growth. Heidi loves these shining, red stems that brighten up your garden in winter. To maximize this feature, simply cut it back occasionally to stimulate new growth. Tough and attractive – what’s not to like?

Red twig dogwood shrubs in winter (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Vicki: California wax myrtle (Morella californica)

Vicki likes this northwest native shrub in winter: “When all the herbaceous life in the garden has sadly drooped down, its foliage remains a shiny deep green and points vigorously up and out.” It is also a versatile plant. If left alone, it becomes a large, round shrub, but can also be arborized to look more like a tree. It’s a great screen or buffer and can handle poor soils as long as it gets enough water.

A young California wax myrtle (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Sarah: Rhododendron oreotrephes

I was struck with the beauty of this Chinese species as I was preparing a specimen for re-location in the Garden recently. When healthy and well pruned, rhododendrons have an elegance that can’t be beat. The flowers aren’t bad either, of course! R. oreotrephes sports lovely lavender blooms in spring. An added feature are its distinctly glaucous (bluish-grey) evergreen leaves that look beautiful year-round. This feature is best in sun, though the plant does not need it and thrives in partial shade as well.

Rhododendron oreotrephes (image courtesy of Wikimedia commons).

All these plants are available in our onsite MsK Rare and Native Plant Nursery!