Once you have your evergreen backdrop, think about adding contrasting deciduous trees with coloured bark for winter interest. These trees can be used to hang lanterns and sparkly ornaments.
Multi-stem trees look particularly effective as their side branches start from ground level.
There are many cultivars of birch trees with different coloured bark. For white stems, choose Betula utilis var jacquemontii. Or a more subtle, soft cream bark, choose ermannii.
For contrasting dark coppery tones, Acer griseum (paperbark maple), has a wonderful winter look. It has peeling, light brown copper bark. Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry) also has peeling bark revealing a wonderful, shiny, polished bronze covering which becomes shinier the more it’s touched.
To achieve mid-level interest during the winter months you can’t beat coloured stem dogwoods. There are a number of different coloured stem cultivars available. There’s the bright red stems of Cornus ‘Baton Rouge’ or the fiery orange of ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’. Then, there’s the deep, dark, almost black stems of ‘Kesselringii’. They are also very easy to grow and maintain and a great choice for this type of garden.
There are several ground-level plants to line the edge of paths and borders. The deep, dark, strap-like leaves of the ‘black grass’ Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ look fantastic planted under and around white stem birch trees.
Bulbs such as snowdrops will add the ultimate, atmospheric, snowy carpet. Then, white flowering hellebore plants will extend the flowering season into early spring.