Plants for all Seasons

After deciduous trees have shed their leaves in cold climates, the landscape need not be a boring and drab scene. There are a number of plants that display ornamental characteristics during the chillier months of the year, sporting colorful and interesting bark, stems, fruits, and seeds. Below are a few examples that should brighten your day!

A stunning display of Bloodtwig Dogwoods

Crabapple fruit against a backdrop of fallen Ginkgo leaves

Hydrangea seed heads add visual interest to the winter landscape.

The bark of this River Birch appears to glow in the sun.

Although ornamental grasses die back in winter, leaving their flower stems and foliage in place until spring adds color and texture to winter landscapes.

Brightly-colored Weeping Willow branches enhance a snowy park scene.
Photos by Alice Webb

A Sustainable Campus Quad

During a recent trip to Salem, Massachusetts, I visited a well-designed quadrangle within a new residence hall complex at Salem State University. A linear bioswale runs along one side of a large lawn area, collecting runoff from the complex, and cleaning this water before it enters a tidal marsh adjacent to the development. Stepped stone-filled gabions line the walkway along the swale, and are intermittently capped with wooden bench seating. Wooden ramps bridge the swale from the walkway, providing access to the lawn area. I think the juxtaposition of the linear architectural elements and the free-form planting design of the swale work well. Even in winter (unusually without snow on this visit), the grasses and other plantings provide visual interest.

Bioswale with adjacent gabions

Wooden bench seating caps portions of the gabions. A green roof sits atop the single-story dining hall (in background).

A row of ornamental grasses visually reinforces yet softens the line of this concrete wall, and attractive pavers complement the building colors.

Plantings along this building remain colorful in winter.

Photos by Alice Webb

Winter Garden Scenes

I recently spent a part of an afternoon at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, Massachusetts, which is a short 15-minute drive from my home. It’s always an inspiring place to visit, regardless of the season. In November they opened the second of two indoor winter plant spaces, called the Limonaia (Lemon House), primarily containing their Citrus and Camellia collections. The Orangerie is the original indoor plant wing, which is full of gorgeous tropical plants, including orange trees, of course. These two wings are delightful places to spend a cold winter day, where you can imagine yourself in a more southerly clime.

The outdoor spaces are still beautiful during winter, though. The walkway that meanders along the perimeter of the Lawn Garden has been cleared of snow, so I took a stroll down this path for some fresh air and photos. There are several other garden areas that aren’t currently accessible, but I plan to return during the spring or summer and write about these in a future post.

This is the new Winter Garden, situated between the Orangerie (building wing in background), and the Limonaia. An unusually deep snow cover hides most of the plantings.

View from the Limonaia toward the Winter Garden

One of several seating nooks in the Orangerie

Path along the perimeter of the Lawn Garden

Pergolas on the south side of the Lawn Garden

View toward the botanic garden buildings, including an old farm house with staff offices

Colorful winter scenery

For more information on Tower Hill Botanic Garden, visit

Photos by Alice Webb

City Parks in Winter

There is a serene type of beauty in the winter landscape, especially when the sun is casting long blue shadows across the snow. The absence of leaves on the deciduous trees also opens up views not seen during the warmer seasons. I decided to take photos of several city parks here in Worcester, Massachusetts, during this chilly but scenic time of year. Landscape architects designed (and/or redesigned) all of the parks pictured below.

A stone lion keeps watch over the entrance to Colombo Park.

My company, EarthDesign Landscape Architecture LLC, designed some additions and renovations to Colombo Park, which will be completed later this year.

Elm Park, established in the late 1800s, has numerous walkways, picnic areas, and three connected ponds which are used for skating in winter.
A red bridge & yellow willow branches add color to the landscape at Elm Park.

A view in Elm Park toward the historic Fire Alarm & Telegraph Building

Newton Hill, which is part of Elm Park, is in the background of the photo above. EarthDesign prepared a master trails plan for Newton Hill.

The Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial at Green Hill Park
Perennials, ornamental grasses, and shrubs provide winter interest at the Veterans' Memorial site.
A walkway meanders along the pond at the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial at Green Hill Park.
City Hall is visible through the trees in the historic Common in winter.