The palette of Cape Cod’s landscape has a surprising beauty in the winter, both in perennial gardens and in our natural and cultivated landscapes.
In the flower gardens, beauty remains when some plantings are left to dry naturally. Blue Hydrangea blossoms turn first a soft pink as the fall season passes, then fade to a golden cloud of flowers that add a fragile laciness to snow-covered gardens. Masses of sturdy perennial Sedum turn a warm rusty rose. Slender stalks of bright pink Coneflower dry with a stark, almost architectural gray elegance. Spikes of Sea Holly stand above velvety Lambs Ears, erect sentries against waving fronds of graceful beach grass. The feathery mounds of Heather turn brassy red, golden yellow, and silvery green. It is a picture full of movement and beauty, attracting birds and providing those of us who visit and live here year-round with something lovely to look at during the Cape’s long quiet season.
Your winter landscape can stay vivid and beautiful with evergreens, boldly shaped and barked trees and shrubs, and even a pleasant scent or two.
In the surrounding landscape beyond perennial garden borders, we often find evergreen trees and shrubs with intricate foliage, pinecones, and berries such as those found on the fragrant Blue Juniper and our abundant native holly. Stately Arborvitaes, Hinoki Cypress, and native Eastern Red Cedar provide soft green backgrounds for deciduous trees with boldly patterned bark like the Paperbark Maple, the Plane tree, and that quintessential New England favorite, White Birch.
Unexpected drama can be added with outcroppings of Red Twig Dogwood, the shrub’s slender crimson stems a bright splash against snow-covered grounds, or plantings of the Harry Lauder Walking Stick shrub with thin corkscrew branches curling wildly in a graceful dance. Winterberry, a deciduous cousin of our native holly, drops every leaf, but graceful erect stems are covered in startling red berries, a favorite with the birds who winter over. Lovely Hellebore flowers in lime, cream, soft pink, and purple suddenly appear in February, surviving cold nights, stinging sea winds, and even blankets of snow.
The foliage of Rhododendron, the mainstay of many a Cape Cod landscape, turns silver on frosty mornings, next spring’s buds sparkling in winter light giving a promise of the beauty to come in May and June. But we are content to sit inside and wait for summer, our most famous season, surrounded by the understated beauty of Cape Cod in winter.
After the first frost, the foliage and flowers of some perennials can be left in your garden, providing visual interest to lifeless landscapes as well as food for birds and small animals.
Sea Holly is a lovely iridescent blue perennial in summer gardens and thrives in Cape Cod’s sandy soil, even in salt-exposed locations. The dried cone-shaped flowers are beautiful in winter gardens and you can save the seed to start new plants in the spring.
The foliage of some perennials, like silvery Lamb’s Ears, survive for a long time in winter gardens and look especially beautiful twinkling with frost. Hellebore’s pristine flowers break through frozen ground in February and will survive frosts and snow storms. “Autumn Joy” Sedum are a mainstay in fall gardens and the plant’s dried foliage adds airy texture to winter beds. Delicate, but hardy Heather keeps blooming even after the snowflakes fly.