Ten Winter Features

Ilona Erwin

Everyone has their opinion of what makes something a joy to the eye. In winter everything is finely edited by our cold weather and killing frosts and further focused when snowfall covers the landscape, but that only means we have a showcase for some plants that make the winter landscape beautiful and interesting.


Contorted Hazel in Winter

  1. Crabapples– the bigger and brighter the fruits the better, but all of them lend a cheery spot to the landscape. Try Malus `Adams’, Malus `Indian Summer’, Malus `Ralph Shay’, and of course my favorite, ‘Prairiefire’. Prairie Fire Crabapple Profile
  2. Hawthorns – these are ornamental size trees that have beautiful flowers in spring and fruit in winter. They have thorns which provide winter interest catching snow on their twiggy outlines. They attract birds such as warblers. Hawthorne Lore
  3. Contorted Filbert, (Corylus avellana “Contorta) also known as Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, is one of my favorites… except for a few small drawbacks. It attracts Japanese beetles like a magnet attracts iron filings and water sprouts from the rootstock create another pruning job in the garden. But the architectural twists and catkin eardrops are so beautiful the winter season. Contorted Filbert Profile


  1. Pyracantha has bright orange berries that last for most of the season (the birds don’t go for them until late in the season). It has persistent -but not evergreen leaves, and strong structure that makes it a feature in the cold months. More Plant Info on Pyracantha.
  2. Rose Glow Barberry (Berberis t. “Rose Glow”) is new to my garden and not big enough yet to grow the gorgeous coral red berries that make it a feature for winter.
  3. Rosa Rugosa “Hansa” and Rosa glauca have lovely rosehips, and the one is a scented delight in summer, while the other has a lovely glaucous bloom on the foliage. Read More About My Roses.
  4. Flowering quinces, Chaenomeles spp., often have golden quince fruits and an artful way of branching that becomes softly traced in snow. (just don’t let it get too twiggy- prune judiciously)
  5. Viburnums are shrubs just about everyone loves. They get large, but because they have flower, elegant foliage, and berries, they are all season choices. Cranberry Bush (Viburnum trilobum) has the most showy fruits. It is on my list to add to my other viburnums. V. Carlesii Profile and More Viburnum Info
  6. Cotoneasters have interesting branching patterns, berries, and persistent foliage. They may be killed back in some of the colder winters, but return from that setback to return to a beautifully spreading shrub. I grow horizontalis and TomThumb– love both of them.
  7. Red-Twig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) has bright stems that glow against the snow, and are attractive during the bareness of fall and winter. The colorful stems are the new growth. I tried them in a somewhat dry spot, which is a mistake- these shrubs like moisture. The red color is best on new growth, pruning out the old growth keeps new branches growing.

Other people’s ideas of what to include in Ten Best Winter Plants

Some additional winter interest suggestions:

  • Paper Bark birch
  • Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri)
  • Snowberry, (Symphoricarpos a.)
  • River Birch (Betula nigra)
  • White bark Birches (Betula spp.)

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.