Since winter is a’comin’, it seems the perfect time to talk about how to make your garden pleasing in the cold seasons. This has been a topic of study here in the Fairegarden for many years. The house renovations have centered around providing the widest views possible of the garden, with seating arranged to be able to look out from different rooms and appreciate what we and nature have wrought. That is all fine and dandy during spring and summer, even the fall fantasia has much to offer. Then the color drains away with the warmth as the sun tilts away from this mortal coil. This is a large topic that will require several posts to fully cover. This is part one, about the plants that remain colorful here in our zone 7a garden. Large evergreens such as pine, cedar and hemlock, large shrubs such as arborvitae, chamaecyparis and hollies are not the focus today, although those are certainly helpful to add some color besides the brown and grey of the deciduous. Look around your neighborhood for ideas of what conifers and broad leaf evergreens are attractive to you and will grow in your area.
Today we will zoom in a little to the small shrubs and perennials that decorate the landscape, the accessories to the big boys. Let us zoom some more to exclude the greens, although green is a very important color in our world. But the term evergreen refers not just to greens but includes some more contrasting shades such as blue/silver, red/copper and yellow/gold. Note that these are the primary colors on the color wheel, blue, red and yellow, from whence all other colors arise. They please the eye, grab the retina to shout “Look at me!”. If you want the monotone calmness of a sea of green, read no farther.
Alphabetically to offend no color, we start with blue/silver. I include the metallic shades because of the organic blend of plant and mineral, let’s leave the animal out of it for now. Lamb’s Ear, Stachys byzantinus was one of the first plants used in our first real garden. The offspring were toddlers then and enjoyed the velvety surface of the glaucous leaves. Others with similar coloration are the various Dianthus ssp. They form eversilver mats of spikes with the bonus of many shades of pinky flowers in spring. Tricky in our climate but worth the trouble to keep replanting are Lavender and Santolina.
Alphabetically next comes the red/copper.
The breeders have done wonders for the gardeners looking for four seasons of beauty with the Heuchera family. The breeders at the Fairegarden, the pollinators, have also been buzzy, creating many seedlings including one that blew into the trough planter. Until this breakthrough in producing the reddish foliage color, all chance seedlings here have been shades of green. It has been named H. ‘Faire Piecrust’.
Some are changlings, green in summer turning to crimson and clover, oops make that purple with copper highlights in the winter. Reaching nearly thug-like status, having seeded in every crack and crevice is the Euphorbia dulcis ‘Chameleon’. Hardy Geranium sanguineum is another turncoat that becomes brilliant in winter. Certain sedums also rise to fulfill the destiny of their names, like S. ‘Dragon’s Blood’.
Alphabetically last of the group is the color that most attracts the eye, yellow/gold. Creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, various Carex ssp. , ivies, more sedums, variegated Yuccas, among others offer the light and bright tints that help warm a wintery scene. Until the brilliantly yellow daffodils begin the growing season all over again.
This is enough for now. So get your pencils and paper and make some lists for your own four seasons of color. Visit your local nurseries, check out Arboretums, public gardens or your neighborhood plantings for ideas. Magazines, blogs and websites are good resources for lists of plants that will work in your climate. There is no reason to stare at brown and grey during those dreary cold months. Unless you live with heavy snow cover all winter, then, never mind.
Other posts in the How To Have Winter Interest series can be seen below in addition they are included in the category How To list on the sidebar:
How To Have Winter Interest-Garden Grassses
How To Have Winter Interest-Seeing Green
How To Have Winter Interest-Shrubs Small And Large
How To Have Winter Interest-The Big Guys
How To Have Winter Interest-Hardscape
For other posts written by Fairegarden, look for How To on the sidebar page listing or click here.