It’s dark, dreary, and drab and you’ve prepared your yard for winter. But everything across your lawn and garden are shades of taupe. It’s sad and boring. Winter has arrived and will be around for months to come. It can be depressing looking over a bleak landscape day after day, especially after the holidays are over and your cheery decorations are gone.

    Unless you live in the deep south or southern California, a humdrum winter lawn and garden makes the winter seem as if it’s dragging on and on. What can a desperate homeowner do to add some attraction to their landscaping this time of year? The answer is trees.

    It’s a mistake to think trees should only be selected for their blooms, greenery, or summer shade.  The right trees and landscaping can make a winter garden wonderfully interesting and attract wildlife.

    Beautiful Bark

    The following trees don’t need leaves to be beautiful. The bark alone is worth the price of the tree:

    1. Japanese Maple “Sango Katu” variety – This fast-growing upright compact tree has stunning coral branches that make it a winter standout. Though it makes a statement in the winter, it’s also heat and drought tolerant so summer heat is never a problem. Zones 5-8. Height: 15-25’.
    2. River Birch – This is a gorgeous birch variety that adds a hint of pink to your yard. This fast-growing, medium-sized tree has salmon pink to reddish-brown bark that peels to expose lighter bark. It is mildly drought tolerant but needs regular watering to stay healthy. Zones 4-9. Height: 40-70’.
    3. American Beech – This is a slow-growing, large tree with wide, low-growing branches. The bark is a showy silver/grey and with leaves that hang on well into the winter, it’s one of the best selections you can make if you have a large yard. Not drought tolerant. Zones 4-9. Height: 50-70’.
    4. European Hornbeam – The beautifully fluted slate-grey bark and wintertime buds make this a great choice on its own. But the fact that it makes an excellent windbreak and has gorgeous, dense leaves in the summer makes this a must-have. Slow growing, it’s moderately tolerant of drought and heat. Zones 5-7. Height: 20-60’.
    5. Japanese Stewartia – The stunning grey, red, and orange bark make this a perfect specimen tree for your winter garden. If its pigment isn’t enough, this tree produces showy white flowers in the summer followed by blazing orange or red leaves in the fall. Not heat tolerant. Zones 5-7. Height: 40’. 

    Walk on the Wild Side

    The following trees are not only attractive in the winter but are perfect for attracting desirable wildlife. You’ll want to keep a pair of binoculars handy to investigate all the activity in your garden:

    1. Shagbark Hickory – This common hickory not only has a lovely shag-like bark, but it attracts wildlife too. It’s large, growing over 100 feet tall, so this is for sizeable yards. Edible nuts become ripe in the late fall attracting chipmunks, bears, foxes, rabbits, and wild turkeys. The nuts are safe for humans and have excellent taste. Zones 4-9.  Height- Over 100’.
    2. Canadian Hemlock – This graceful, long-lived evergreen not only adds color to your winter garden but is a favorite of birds in the fall and winter. It does best in partial sun and shade. Zones 3-7. Height-80’.
    3. Washington Hawthorne – This is a small, colorful tree that will spice up your winter with its red berries.  It will attract many songbirds that rely on it for food during the sparse winter months. In the fall, expect orange, red, and purple leaves. Zones 4-8. Height 20’.
    4. American Holly – Not only will this stunning tree cheer up your winter garden with its bright green leaves and red berries, but it also provides important cover and food for animals. It will attract wild turkeys, quail, and songbirds. Zones 5-9. Height-40-50’.

    Palm Trees in the North? You Bet.

    Even people in parts of the north can add a little tropical flavor to winter with the following cold hardy palms. Mix up a Pina Colada and put on a little Jimmy Buffett as you look out the window to see one of these beauties:

    1. McCurtain Dwarf Palm – This small palm tree is grown as far north as Ohio and Kansas. It has large, showy fronds and has survived temperatures as low as -20 on rare occasions.  Zones 6b-10.  Height 6’.
    2. Windmill Palm – A favorite of mid-Atlantic gardeners, they can grow as far north as Delaware. This compact palm has an interesting “fuzzy” bark and waxy green fronds. In freezing weather, mulch the roots heavily and wrap the tree in burlap. This will help it survive temps down to 0. Zones 7-10. Height-12’.
    3. Pindo Palm – This is a medium-sized feather palm with long, classic looking palm fronds. It can be found as far north as British Columbia and Delaware and as far south in Florida. With care, it can survive temps as low as -5. Zones 7b-11. Height:12-20’.
    4. Needle Palm – We saved the best for last. This small, clumping palm can be found as far north as Cape Cod! It’s native to the southeast and thrives on the east coast because of hotter summer temperatures which it needs for growth. It can routinely withstand temps as low as -10 and makes quite a conversation piece when you live in New England.  Zones 5b-11. Height-6’.

    Bring your property to life by adding these all season trees, then share your new winter landscape with family, friends, and especially the wildlife. The critters will thank you!

    “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” -William Shakespeare.