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Go Beyond Boxwood

The Midwest in the winter. Dark. Cold. Colorless. No wonder we are obsessed with planting evergreens. What never fails to amaze is how much effort we invest into cutting back fantastic winter plants.

Tall graceful grasses that glow in the early evening light, spent blooms on hydrangeas, perennials with leaves still attached and green. There is a wonderful world of winter interest available to you.

So here are steps to a lovely winter garden that creates shadow, texture, and movement. Especially if the birds take advantage of the cover you have provided.

  1. Leave the ornamental grasses. Resist the urge to crew cut them. You may need to cut them back in late winter so spring winds don’t make a mess, but wait.

  2. Leave any shrubs that still provide foliage or dried flower.

  3. Do not cut back perennials until they are utterly spent.

  4. Plant for winter beyond boxwood. Mix your deciduous and evergreen plants.

Below are some great plants for winter interest via bark, berries, and foliage. The birds and other wildlife will appreciate you losing the pruners. You can chop in late winter before spring arrives.


River Birch

Paperbark Maple



Redtwig and Yellowtwig Dogwood

Winterberry Holly

Chokeberry (Aronia)

Witch Hazel

Kerria pleniflora

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Limelight Hydrangea

Beautyberry (Callicarpa)

Corylus Contorta

Ornamental Grasses


Bluestem (Andropogon)

Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)





Amsonia hubrichtii


Early Spring Bulbs

Iris reticulata


Winter Aconite


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