Story and Photo by Christie Green

Sunflowers, prized botanic icon of summer’s bounty, maintain their interest year round, just ask the Juncos and Finches. Ask any bird hungry for nutrients in the dead of winter, as well as we humans hungry for signs of life in the dormant garden. Birds and humans alike benefit from the sunflower’s sustenance and stark, woody structural form.

Winter offers a wondrous opportunity to appreciate the layers of beauty obscured by the summer glitz of color and lush foliage. A tree’s bark, shrub’s multi-trunk form and persistent fruit, vine’s spray of seed head luminescence, perennial’s remnant dry bloom and grass’s erect wispy blades invite a closer look – an alternative perspective and deepened appreciation for what each season offers.

Some of our native botanic beauties with particularly attractive dormant forms and/or nutritious offerings include:

Populous tremuloides
Pinus edulis
Juniperus monosperma
Quercus gambelii
Pinus ponderosa
Pinon Pine
One Seed Juniper
Gambel Oak
Ponderosa Pine
showy structure; bark
evergreen; nut
evergreen; fruit (females only)
showy bark; nut
evergreen; bark; cones
Small Trees/Shrubs
Cornus stolonifera
Ptelea trifolata
Forestiera neomexicana
Salix exigua
Ceratoides lanata
Amelanchiar alnifolia
Ribes aureum, sereum
Prunus virginiana
Rhus trilobata
Rosa woodsii
Shepherdia argentea
Agave parryi
Red Twig Dogwood
Wafer Ash
NM Privet
Coyote Willow
Golden & Wax Currant
Three Leaf Sumac
Woods Rose
Buffalo Berry
Parry Agave
showy bark
showy bark, seed
showy bark; sculptural form
showy bark
seed; form
bark; fruit
form; fruit
form, fruit
sculptural form
Panicum virgatum
Eragrostis trichodes
Andropogon scoparius
Stipa neomexicana
Heavy Metal Switch Grass
Sand Love Grass
Little Bluestem
NM Feathergrass
showy seed; foliage
showy seed; foliage
showy seed; foliage
Achillea lanulosa
Antennaria rosea
Eriogonum umbellatum
Penstemon strictius
Penstemon pinnifolius
Pussy Toes
Sulfur Buckwheat
Rocky Mtn. Penstemon
Pineleaf Penstemon
showy seed
foliage; form
showy seed
showy seed
showy seed, foliage
Clematis pseudoalpina
Parthenocissus inserta
Vitis arizonica
Rocky Mountain Clematis
Canyon Grape
showy seed
sculptural form; fruit
sculptural form; bark;  fruit

Consider  layered groupings of grasses, perennials, shrubs and trees for multidimensional – visual and nutritional – sustenance. Puckered crimson rose hips set off fluffy white shrub seed heads and coniferous needles while offering dense cover for song birds.

Allow dormant plantings center stage amongst winter’s hushed blanket of white – the birds will rejoice as will your rejuvenated appreciation for the garden’s “off season” glory.

Christie Green is the proprietress of radicle.


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Edible celebrates New Mexico's food culture, season by season. We believe that knowing where our food comes from is a powerful thing. With our high-quality, aesthetically pleasing and informative publication, we inspire readers to support and celebrate the growers, producers, chefs, beverage and food artisans, and other food professionals in our community.