November 19, 2010 | Ellen Hertzman, Former Manager of Volunteer Experience

“Winter Interest” is a term that gets tossed around a lot by horticulture types, but what does it mean, and how do I get some?

Much like gardening in the challenging Colorado climate, finding winter interest in our gardens is about broadening our minds to expand our idea of what is beautiful. I chuckle when I think of the Gardens visitor who demanded a refund after spending a January afternoon here. “Everything’s dead!” he complained.

True—the summer profusion of blooms is gone for now. But when I look closely, I can find exquisite delight in the juxtaposition of colors and textures in the Ornamental Grass Garden. I can take the time to appreciate the unusual bark of the lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana), without the distraction of show-off sunflowers waving for my attention.

Seed pods call for up-close inspection, to admire their form and efficiency. And without leaves, the berries of the barberry (Berberis) have the spotlight to themselves—what vivid color!

In my own garden, winter interest is a concept I’m just beginning to plan for and think about. What stays and what goes as the summer season winds down? I could cut everything back to a tidy new beginning, or I could leave those interesting stalks, pods, and ex-flower heads to create a three-dimensional view for a few more months.

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