Gardens are often neglected in winter once most showy flowers have
faded, but with the right plants, they can still be enchanting places at
this time of year. Plants with winter interest often have special,
rather subtle qualities, such as sweetly scented flowers, attractive
stems, foliage, seedheads, berries, or structural shapes.
Hellebores are among the best winter-blooming plants. Flowering from midwinter to mid-spring, these clump-forming evergreen perennials are easily grown in light shade in any good soil, and form good ground cover when planted in drifts. Other perennials with winter interest worth seeking out include mauve-flowered Iris unguicularis and Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’, with its white-veined leaves.
Frost and snow add an element of short-lived beauty to the garden in winter, often transforming it overnight. A light covering of snow or a hard frost can enhance structures, highlighting architectural features and plants and briefly changing the whole feel of a garden.
Some shrubs flower in winter, such as witch hazel
(Hamamelis) with its orange, yellow, or red spiderlike blooms. Other
shrubs worth considering for their delicious scent include the
honeysuckle and wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox.
Mahonias are among the finest evergreen shrubs for winter, with their spiny foliage and sweetly scented yellow blooms, followed by blue-tinged berries. They are also useful for their architectural form, which makes them an attractive backdrop for other plants such as Euonymus, with its colorful fruit.
The seedheads of some grasses will survive well into winter, providing a touch of unexpected grace to plantings, especially when dusted with frost. Translucent, they allow views through to plants behind, such as the fruit-laden branches of a crabapple (Malus).