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Five Shrubs For Your Winter Garden


Five Shrubs For Your Winter Garden


(Photo by

For gardeners like me who live in a cold climate, the thought of the upcoming winter season can feel you with apprehension or dread. Winters here in New York state are brutal and long. The snow-covered landscape is barren and devoid of color. However, with prudent planing, your garden can provide an abundance visual appeal in winter for both you and wildlife.

Here are a few shrubs that I highly recommend for the winter garden

(Photos provided by Julie Makin, and Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension)

Common Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea): Hardy in zones 4 to 9, the berries of the shrub change from red to blackish-purple in late summer. The berries are a viable food source wildlife and are also safe for human consumption (used in pies, jellies and jams). The leave range from gold, orange or red during fall, providing a spectacular visual show. During the winter, the long woody branches creates a stunning form, especially after a fresh snowfall.


(Photos by

Cranberry Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus): Hardy in zones 4 to 7, this small shrub is versatile and easy to maintain. The plants produce red to orange berries from late summer well into winter, producing berries  that are a viable source of food for wildlife. The leaves provide a lovely showcase of colors ranging from bronze to red to purple in the fall.

(Photos by By Sage Ross – Own work, Creative Commons) and

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii): Hardy in zones 4 to 8, the leaves can range from red, burgundy, yellow, orange, green and gold, depending on the cultivar. The berries, which are consumed primarily by birds, are typically bright red. In the fall, the leaves die back and expose thin and woody stems. In various states, certain cultivars of barberry have become invasive due to the disbursement of seeds consumed by birds, so investigate what varieties are best for your area before purchasing.

(Photos by

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus): Hardy in zones 3 to 7, this bush produces green to white berries from late summer to fall. The leaves stay green until they die in fall, so it offers no visual stimulation in the autumn. However, the white berries remain on the woody stems during winter (since they are unappealing as a food source to birds) and the whiteness of the snow only accentuates its wintertime beauty as a blank canvas.

(Photos by Julie Makin,

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata): Hardy in zones 3 to 9, the prolific female plants produce fruit that range from orange to red to yellow. The fruit are a main food source for birds and small mammals, but are NOT meant for human consumption. After the leaves have died back, the woody stems expose the remaining fruit. The effect is quite stunning against the snowy backdrop.




  1. tonytomeo
    October 15, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Hey, those aren’t just for cold climates. They are popular here among those who came here from cold climates. Actually, we have a native snowberry that lives down in riparian areas. Serviceberry could be a bit more popular than it is, but not many people know about it.

    1. The Editors of Garden Variety
      October 15, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      You are right about the unpopularity of serviceberry. Hopefully, they will be included in more gardens in the near future. Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read the post Tony.

      1. tonytomeo
        October 15, 2017 at 9:30 pm

        Oh, I did not mean to say that they are unpopular for everyone, just here. You know how trends work. People buy what they see in the nursery, or in the neighborhood gardens. We grew a small crop of serviceberry, but none of the retailers bought it. I don’t remember the variety. I might be planting some of those unwanted plants in the garden this year.

        1. The Editors of Garden Variety
          October 21, 2017 at 10:33 am

          No problem Tony and you are so correct about trends. I am so pleased you enjoyed reading the article. Have a great weekend 🙂

  2. Nikki
    October 15, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Great article and thanks for the recommendation. Even though I am in the South I wondered what would do well in the winter. Seems like you know your stuff.

    1. The Editors of Garden Variety
      October 21, 2017 at 10:29 am

      Thank you so much. I am pleased you enjoyed the article.

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