Red Butte Garden in the Wintertime - Modern Gardener | KUED.org

Red Butte Garden in the Wintertime

The R. Harold Burton Water Pavilion at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

The R. Harold Burton Water Pavilion at Red Butte Garden

By Lizzi Brosseau

Looking for Outdoor Fun in the Wintertime?

There’s nothing better to beat the winter blues than to get moving and spend time outdoors in nature. Utah is famous for our skiing, but buying a lift ticket isn’t the only way to enjoy nature in the wintertime. Red Butte Garden, one of Utah’s premiere botanical gardens nestled into the foothills of Salt Lake City, is open year round and it’s the perfect place to escape to in the winter when cabin fever strikes.

 

Peeling bark reveals colorful new growth underneath.

Discover the hidden beauty of plants in the wintertime

The trees, shrubs and flowers that make such an impressive show in the garden during warmer months also have a unique beauty to behold in the winter. With leaves and petals fallen from branches and stems, the form of each plant becomes more apparent.These branch structures can be quite striking against a snowy backdrop, clear blue sky, or bright red sunset.  

The bareness of plants in wintertime also allows one to see the surprising colors and beautiful textures of the bark on trees and bushes. Brightly colored berries, crab apples and seeds heavily load many trees and flowers, attracting overwintering birds and squirrels. With no crowds to contend with, the garden in winter is a peaceful place to see many plants and creatures in a quiet and meditative environment.

Video: Winter Tour of Red Butte Garden

We took a tour of Red Butte Garden’s Four Seasons garden, which is the first of many themed gardens patrons will encounter during their visit. Here we were shown some of the hidden beauties of the garden. Listed below are 10 plants we discovered on our tour, with more details about what makes each of these plants so special. Perhaps one of them would be a great addition to your own landscape!

 

1. Variegated Tatarian Dogwood

Tatarian Dogwood in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

This shrub undergoes many colorful transformations through the year—from little white flowers to lush green foliage. Younger branches are more red, so cutting branches back rejuvenates the tree for a bright show in the wintertime. Dogwood’s thin, red stems brighten any winter landscape and vividly contrast the snow and sunlight.

 

2. Golden Harvest Crabapple

Golden Crabapple's in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

Crabapples’ beautiful flowering branches lose their leaves in the fall, but retain the fruit throughout the winter. Having a tree that is bare of any leaves provides a chance to see the lovely, architectural branching pattern of the trees and their structure.

 

3. Bosnian Pine

Bosnian Pine in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

A tall, narrow evergreen with long, upright branches makes a good addition for open spaces in a landscape.

 

4. White Fir

White Fir in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

The star of the winter garden, this is a native evergreen with light gray bark. Fir trees are easy to identify by their flat needles. Simply remember the old rhyme: “Spruce are single, square and scaly, Prickly pine is in packets, and Flat and friendly fir.” Against the backdrop of snow, it’s easy to see why White Firs are popular as Christmas trees.

 

5. Ilex Holly

Holly berries in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

Garden designers often use holly in their landscapes because they are attractive looking year-round, and the berries attract birds and wildlife. This Ilex Holly bush is deciduous, unlike their native evergreen lookalikes Mahonia, which gives us a chance to see their beautiful branching pattern after the leaves fall. Grown in your own yard, you could easily use the berry laden branches of the Ilex Holly to augment holiday decorations and wreaths.

 

6. Weeping Japanese Red Pine

Weeping Red Pine in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

These ornamental trees have unique shapes and variations, and are easy to train and shape, with reddish colored peeling bark that lends their namesake.

 

7. Slowmound Mugo Pine

Slowmound Mugo Pine in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

This dwarf, compact conifer is frequently used in landscaping and ornamental gardens. The Slowmound Mugo Pine gives homeowners and landscape designers a wonderful option to provide texture and color in small spaces. Their bark is gray-brown and scaly, but doesn’t peel.

 

8. Dwarf Argentinian Blue Spruce

Dwarf Blue Spruce in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

This tree is popular in ornamental gardens because of the beautiful, symmetrical shape it naturally forms. As all evergreens do, it provides green all year long; but, because it’s needles are slightly blue, it adds color interest to any landscape.

 

9. China Snow Lilac

Chinese Lilac in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

Hardy and beautiful, this lilac adds accent and shade to your garden. The amber-colored, exfoliating bark becomes the prominent feature of this shrub in the winter. When the branches are more visible, this exfoliating bark make the limbs of the tree look “lit-up” when back-lit by the sun.

 

10. Washington Hawthorn

Washington Hawthorne in the Four Seasons Garden at Red Butte Garden. KUED, All Rights Reserved.

Small, bright, red fruit stays on this tree all winter. The branches have thorns offering texture and color, as well as a place for birds to perch and rest. The mature bark is flaky. The brown and gray outer plates flake off, exposing a beautiful, red-orange interior bark.

Find inspiration on a walk through Red Butte Garden this winter

Plant Placard

When you visit, don’t just take photos of the beautiful colors, textures, and shapes you see in these dormant plants—snap pictures of the signs too. They are located next to most of the plants in the garden and will provide useful information for more research, such as: the plants full name, significant features, and what zones the plants thrive in. Maybe you’ll see a tree or shrub that would be the perfect addition to your landscape!

"Bud's Yellow" Tatarian Dogwood


 

Red Butte Garden Provides a Safe and Accessible Outdoor Winter Excursion

A meditative winter walk through Red Butte Garden will set your mind on a journey to many beautiful places—from the wonder of nature’s handiwork, to perhaps the possibilities for new additions to your home garden and landscape. Since Red Butte Garden takes pains to make as much of the garden accessible in the winter as possible, you’ll be sure to find plenty of inspiration. We hope you’ll get outside and explore this impressive and conveniently located Utah gem—our own truly inspiring winter wonderland!

Pathway near the water pavilion, cleared of snow.

Red Butte Garden is a museum of living plants. Plants are collected for their horticultural merit, use in research and conservation, and for their historical value. Each plant is given an accession number and carefully curated within the collections. To learn about their collections and displays, please click here.

Lizzi Brosseau

Lizzi Brosseau, Digital Producer at KUED Channel 7.
Modern Gardener Host and Author

Lizzi works for KUED Channel 7 as a digital producer and host of Modern Gardener. She loves being outside, even in the winter!Read more