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Portland Nursery

Natives for Winter Interest


It will all too soon be winter in the garden, when the view is sparse and bare, sometimes with a dusting or blanket of snow to change the shape of things in the landscape. Having plants that add beauty and interest in the winter garden can be both a challenge and an unexpected delight. There are some NW natives that add color and/or texture to the winter garden. Here are a few:

Amelanchier alnifolia – Serviceberry

Amelanchier alnifoliaThe native Serviceberry has three strong seasons of interest, from the bright green leaves and clusters of white flowers in spring, berries in the summer and striking autumn color. In the winter, while not particularly dramatic, the graceful shape of the branches and distinct gray of the bark creates a subtle, graceful presence in the winter garden.

Arbutus menziesii – Madrone

Arbutus menziesiiThe dramatic orange peeling bark of our native Madrone is a striking beauty at any time of year, but stands out especially in winter.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi – Kinnickinick

ArcostaphylosThis evergreen groundcover will blanket the ground in rich, dark green leaves year-round, providing a solid contrast to the starkness of the winter season.

Blechnam spicant – Deer Fern

Deer FernThis evergreen fern, with its deeply-dissected fronds and persisting dark/bright green color, is a striking textural addition to the winter garden.

Cornus sericea – Red-Twig Dogwood

Cornus sericeaWhat can we say? The screamingly brash red upright stems of this shrub make it a stand-out beauty, especially in winter!

Gaultheria shallon – Salal

Gaultheria shallonThis is one of the best garden evergreens with its wide green leathery leaves; it provides an anchor for the winter garden with its solid presence.

Mahonia spp. – Oregon Grape

MahoniaThis one has texture and color, both – the holly-like prickly leaves, winter color from green to red to maroon, depending on weather and species, this sturdy evergreen shrub won't fail to add interest to your garden in winter.

Pinus contorta var. contorta –Shore Pine

Pinus contortaThere are several native pines that are standouts in winter, but the twisted shapes of the native Shore Pines area especially attractive.

Polypodium glycyrrhiza - Licorice Fern

Licorice FernThis fern actually breaks dormancy in winter – in the early months of each New Year it can be found abundant and thriving in a bright green abundance in the moss-covered limbs and bases of established trees like Acer macrophyllum, one of the plants that heralds in the coming of spring.

Polystichum munitum – Sword Fern

Sword FernSword ferns are evergreen, so their familiar arching form can be an anchor to your winter woodland garden.

Rosa spp. – Wild Rose

Wild RoseThough not evergreen, our wild roses all have an interesting, tussled form with varying degree of thorns that add a sculptural element to the garden in winter. Add to that the red of the hips that persist and are attractive to birds, and you have a native garden must-have!


Cornus sanguinea
Red Twig Dogwood

Symphocarpus alba

Symphoricarpos alba – Snowberry

The abundant, spindly branching and especially the unique marble-round berries make this a unique addition to the winter garden.

Vaccinium ovatum

Vaccinium ovatum – Evergreen Huckleberry

The beautiful, shiny dark green leaves, often tinged with red in the winter months, make this a sturdy foundation throughout the winter, bringing beautifully red new growth to view in the early spring.

Vaccinium ovatum

Viburnum trilobum – American Cranberrybush

There is almost no color more electrifying that the bright red clusters of berries on this shrub that often persist into winter and light up the garden (not to mention attract birds with tantalizing food in the winter).