Winter color in the garden isn’t limited to coniferous evergreens (though evergreens, both conifer and not, are needed in the garden, click here and here for more on that). Many perennials—hellebores (mine are just starting to bloom and I’m so happy) heuchera, autumn fern, angelina sedum, acorus and bergenia (to name a few)—are evergreen and add color to our containers and landscapes throughout the winter months. And shrubs like red and yellow twig dogwood are a striking contrast to a bleak landscape, and certain deciduous trees, like witch hazel are the first to bloom, generally in January. Their bright, sulfur yellow, or red-orange blooms are a happy pop of color on these grey, overcast days. If your eyes are dying for a spot of color, take heart, there’s plenty of winter color for your garden.
Some plants are what we call four-season plants, they offer us something of interest in every season. Dogwoods fit this bill with early spring bloom, red berries and dark red fall color, and a striking winter architecture. Not every plant offers four season interest however and picking what works for your yard is a thoughtful process. Red twig dogwoods are an example of this. Winter is the only season they really stand out, but often there are cultivars like, ‘Elegantissima’ that have variegated leaves to give interest throughout the summer. Determining what needs your landscape has is key, but who couldn’t use a bit of color in winter? Then there are plants that give color all year. It’s like they’re on steroids. Yucca ‘Bright Edge’ and ‘Color Guard’ are examples of this.
I hear it all the time: I don’t want to waste money on annuals. Point taken and saving money is a valid concern for all of us, but if you’re like me I crave color in the winter and I figure it’s like a good bottle of wine—enjoyable, even if temporary. And the best thing about pansies? They may look a little sad on the coldest of days but come early spring the hard work is done—they’re planted—and they pop back up giving us color in the garden until it really heats up in May or June. That’s worth the cost of a flat of pansies.
Don’t forget your houseplants. My ‘Neon’ pothos, with its chartreuse leaves, is hard to kill. prefers filtered light and infrequent watering but adds color to my indoors. Dracena, Rex begonias and African violets are all happy companions while the garden sleeps.
Winterberry shrubs (deciduous hollies) hold their bright red berries until late winter. Combine these shrubs (typically 8′ x 10′ – 6′ x 8′, but dwarf versions stay closer to 3′- 4′ x 3′- 4′) with perennial grasses like switchgrass ‘Heavy Metal’, and not only is the combination beautiful but the winter color of both is so worth it. (If you’re ever driving past the airport, they have rows of winterberry with tons of berries now, check it out if you’re unfamiliar with them.) I could go on and on but go check it out for yourself, the store is loaded with color and staff is happy to help you select what works for you. This week’s drop in temperature remind us that cold weather is official, but that doesn’t mean, we can’t still enjoy some color in our gardens.
Cinthia Milner is the garden coach, and blog writer for BB Barns Garden Center.
BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.