My morale was greatly elevated by an invitation to talk to the Lyme Gardeners last night about plants for winter beauty.
My favorite has been Ilex verticilata which has many many new cultivars such as 'Berry Heavy' and 'Berry Nice'.Unfortunately, this year birds got all the fruit in November.
Viburnum trilobum fruit stay red all winter.
Japanese barberry hold up well but are too invasive for my taste. Korean Barberry have pretty fruit, good fall color and don't seem to come up everywhere as weeds.
Sumac is attractive all winter.
The viburnums have a nice winter aspect even though they are brown.
Red-twig dogwoods are a good plant to brighten up the winter. I've had the best results with varieties of our native Cornus sericea (formerly C. stolonifera): forrma baileyi and 'Cardinal'. The European species (C.sanguinea) has many newer cultivars such as 'Midwinter Fire', 'Winter Flame' and 'Arctic Sun'- these are a little shorter growing and I have found them a little tempermental around here but fine farther south. Kevin thinks there are fine here and Michelle agrees with me. There is also the oriental spesies Cornus alba.
Red twig willows are quite stunning: Salix alba 'Flame'. Also dwarf arctic and dapples willows have attractive purple osiers in the winter
Grasses are good in the winter. My favorite are Molinia 'Skyracer', Calamogrostis brachytricha and various Miscanthus.
Silphiums are pretty in the winter: their leathery curled leaves. I like S. terebinthinacium and S. laciniate for this reason.