Coral embers willow (Salix alba ssp. vitellina 'Britzensis') - nothing special in the gardeners' world, just a fast-growing, hardy, colorful shrub for a large area - is a real delight this time of year.
When the leaves fall in autumn, it shows off its branches for the winter: yellow, orange, red in varying degrees all over...and it really stands out in a winter landscape. Add some snow and you will really appreciate it.
It's inexpensive to buy, it's vigorous (grows 2-3 feet a year), gets large (my 9 year old specimen reached about 13 feet this year), gets woody (you need to trim it back), serves as a great nesting place for all kinds of wildlife (I've seen it all), and looks really cool when it snows especially.
Important: it needs to be trimmed back as far as possible into the current year's wood EVERY year, or it gets very large. So, in Feb-Mar, before leaves start to come out, go out and trim everything but an inch of the colorful stems off. The new growth will start from here, and the further you cut it back, the more colorful it will be the next winter.
It serves as a great screen shrub, and you can pick it out in the winter from quite a distance (if you happen to have trouble finding your house).
If you are interested in starting one (or a hundred), call me and let me know - I will save you a bunch when I trim mine. I stick them in a bucket of water and once they root, plant them in the ground, and they seem to do just fine. They are not fussy about soil, like sun, and after a year will start giving you a colorful winter backdrop.
Learn more about Plants with Winter Interest:
Winter Interest in MG Iris Master's Landscape and Other Penn National Gardens
Nandina - Heavenly Bamboo
Landscaping for Four Seasons of Interest
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 1 - Partridge Berry
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 2 - Snowdrops
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 3 - Stinking Hellebore
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 4 - Native Jewel Orchid
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 5 - Lavender
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 6 - Witchhazel
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 7 - Paperbark Maple
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 8 - Eastern Teaberry or Wintergreen
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 9 - Harry Lauder's Walking Stick
When Plants Go (somewhat) Rogue
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