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:
One Seed Juniper
|showy structure; bark
evergreen; fruit (females only)
showy bark; nut
evergreen; bark; cones
Ribes aureum, sereum
|Red Twig Dogwood
Golden & Wax Currant
Three Leaf Sumac
showy bark, seed
showy bark; sculptural form
|Heavy Metal Switch Grass
Sand Love Grass
|showy seed; foliage
showy seed; foliage
showy seed; foliage
Rocky Mtn. Penstemon
showy seed, foliage
|Rocky Mountain Clematis
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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