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A Winter Garden

By High Line Gardens | December 20, 2019

As we go into the dark days of the year, we want to bring you a little brightness with our favorite winter plants. While it’s easy to dismiss browning plants, we appreciate the hidden gems of color, shade, and shape of a winter garden.

Close-up of red sprite winterberries

Cheerful Red Sprite winterberries

  1. Ilex verticillata, ‘Red Sprite’, Red Sprite winterberry

The vibrant red berries of Red Sprite winterberry are a colorful contrast with the subdued tones of dried grasses that characterize the High Line’s winter landscape.

Snow on ferns on the ground

Fallen winter ferns in snow

  1. Polystichum acrostichoides, Christmas fern

With shiny dark green fronds, Christmas fern can be seen in the woodland understories contrasting against the gravel and/or snow.

Red staghorn sumac

The bold staghorn sumac

  1. Rhus typhina, staghorn sumac

Striking in winter, staghorn sumac is easily identified by its antler-like structure, tenacious burgundy seed heads, and dense, velvety reddish-brown hairs which cover the branches of the previous two years’ growth.

long white stalks of plants

Noble, upright stalks of the culver root

  1. Veronicastrum virginicum, Culver’s root

The white spikes and spires of the culver’s root are fading to a deep brown, but the slender dark stalks are strong and persistent.

Close-up of small pink flowers

The dawn viburnum persists

  1. Viburnum x bodnantense, ‘Dawn’ Dawn viburnum

This deciduous shrub that has long-lasting fragrant flowers that bloom from late autumn through early spring.

white birch trees in snow

The iconic bark of the birch against freshly fallen snow

  1. Betula populifolia, ‘Whitespire’ Whitespire grey birch

These beloved trees create a dominant presence year round, particularly in our pioneer woodland edge where the birch’s silvery trunks and diving branches create an intimate space for our visitors to enjoy.

Drooping, golden leaves

The golden, drooping sea oats

  1. Chasmanthium latifolium, northern sea oats

The deep green leaf blades of the northern sea oats will brown a toward the end of summer, but it will not be until the first frost of winter that they take on a pleasing copper brown color.

Spiky seedheads

Assertive rattlesnake master

  1. Eryngium yuccifolium, rattlesnake master

The blooms of rattlesnake master attract a wide variety of insect life to a garden, though on the High Line in autumn they are prized more for the ornamental quality of its dried seedheads that persevere throughout the winter.

Dead rose mallow seedheads

The rose mallow sheds its showy blooms.

  1. Hibiscus moscheutos palustris, rose mallow

With a striking color contrast against snow drifts, the rose mallow maintains form even in wet, brutal winters.

A cluster of dead coneflowers

A cluster of “resting” coneflowers

  1. Echinacea purpurea ‘Vintage Wine’, Vintage Wine coneflower

The sturdy stems and characteristic cone-shaped seed heads of coneflower provide a stark contrast to the lighter tones and more delicate textures of the dormant grasses that dominate the winter landscape of the High Line.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line’s most important gardening projects.

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