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  • Jennifer Anderson

Lively Winter Gardens

Falling temperatures does not have to mean your garden settles in for a long winter’s nap. Several native trees and shrubs come alive against the cold and snow -- and they feed and shelter your valuable wildlife. Check these out:



River Birch (Betula nigra) is a luxurious and popular Mid-Atlantic tree, growing 40 to 70 feet tall with a spreading crown and adaptable to most soils. Its pleasant yellow leaves eventually fall off, spotlig


hting beautiful peeling bark with cinnamon-like undertones. It hosts hundreds of butterfly and moth species, and in winter woodpeckers feed on insects hiding underneath the bark.


Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) grows up to 12 feet in moist sites and in full

sun to part shade. It likes to form colonies and, after losing its leaves, show off bright red berries that persist throughout the winter. Winterberry not only hosts several moth species and serves up nectar, but Audubon ranks it as a 2015 Bird-Friendly Native Plant of the Year.



Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) sports soft, fan-like evergreen foliage and grows 20 to 40 feet tall with a 10- to 20-foot spread. It’s a great specimen or hedge tree, and it offers consistently beautiful and green foliage all year long. Cultivars include the smaller Emerald Green and Techny, with darker green foliage. These trees provide great winter cover for birds.


Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) grows 6 to 9 feet tall and looks great all year--with

clusters of fragrant, white spring blooms radiant against dark green leaves, orange and red fall leaves and bright red stems and twigs contrasting beautifully against the snow. It’s a high pollinator and larval host for the Spring Azure butterfly.


Excellent evergreen ground covers include Christmas fern, Foamflower and Pennsylvania sedge, and these can be planted in a side garden or even right underneath these beautiful trees.


Sources:

A River Birch Oasis, National Audubon Society, https://nc.audubon.org/news/river-birch-oasis.

Betula nigra, Missouri Botanical Garden, https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=277830

Winterberry: Irresistible to Birds and People, The Audubon Society, https://nc.audubon.org/news/winterberry-%E2%80%93-irresistible-birds-and-people.


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