Trees such as shagbark hickory and ironwood feature stringy-looking bark, which forms in long, shaggy-looking vertical “strips.” Add more interest (and varied height) with burning bush, a deciduous shrub named for its scarlet leaves come autumn. However, after these drop, the bark suddenly presents its very own drama because the corky cambium covering branches and twigs is deeply ridged, or winged.
Food for wildlife
Birds are welcome in most gardens—but how can we attract them with plants, not just via supplemental feeding stations?
Choose native shrubs that fruit, such as sumach, with its fuzzy red “candle” clusters of berries, or trees such as ash with their drooping bunches of seed “keys.” Flowers such as coneflowers, teasels and phlox offer nourishment throughout the winter, too.
Shelter for wildlife
Instead of cutting back stalks of flowers such as phlox and climbing plants like clematis, leave them be. Chickadees and goldfinches at one of my feeders, for instance, find shelter among two clematis vines that entwine their way up the arbour from which my feeders hang. And, throughout winter, the twisted “topknots” of clematis seedpods add interest to the garden.
And let’s not forget ornamental grasses. Long after they’ve died, many add structure and pom-pom-like shape to the garden. Meanwhile, their drooping leaves offer shelter for critters passing by…
Winter in Canada? Sure it’s freezing cold and snowy. But our gardens can bustle with life, form and colour!
Katharine Fletcher is a gardens columnist, freelance writer and author who enjoys her organic gardens at her farm Spiritwood, in the Pontiac region of West Quebec.