The front door is the focal point of the front yard.
Ideally a walkway leads to it and along the way affords a good, straightforward view to the door. During the summer, it may be an enjoyable leisurely stroll to the door, perhaps with pauses along the way to enjoy the plants. Not so much in the winter. In fact, there will be days when it’s more runway than walkway.
Visual direction to the door is critical during the winter, as is a welcome greeting, of the winter type. Of course a brightly-coloured door is simple enough, but why not add a bit of planting specifically for the wintertime yard?
First, keep it simple: two or three different kinds of shrubs, or a shrub and a mass planting of perennials with showy seedheads will suffice.
Second, incorporate colour, either to connect with the door colour, or contrast with the house colour.
The plant choices are restricted. We’re looking for mid-sized shrubs — high enough to stand their ground in two to three feet of snow, but short enough not to obstruct the view to the door. And we’re looking for tall perennials.
The smaller globe cedars, the dwarf mugo pine, the dwarf spruces, and the bigger vase-shaped junipers are all good choices. But don’t limit yourself to only evergreens for winter interest.
Deciduous shrubs can have great-looking winter coloured branches. Dogwoods such as "Little Rebel", "Golden Variegated" and "Morden Amber" have been selected specifically for their brilliant reds. Dwarf Blue Leaf Arctic Willow has deep purple. Therese Bugnet Rose has deep reddish-purple.
Hydrangeas lead the pack if it’s a shrub with dramatic seedheads you’re looking for. The rugosa roses retain their hips and make for great winter interest as well.
Large perennials with interesting seedheads include coneflowers, sneezeweed, black-eyed Susan, and ligularia.
Consider the growing conditions, and select two or three different kinds of shrubs, or a shrub and a mass planting of perennials. These plants will carry the show during the winter, so place them sufficiently close together to form a planting. During the summer let them recede into the background. In fact, encourage some low flowering shrubs or perennials to steal the limelight.
Purchase a couple armloads of colourful branches, and "plant" them!
This is my final column for this season. Thank you for the inquiries and positive comments. May your walk to the door be more stroll than run throughout this coming winter!