Winter plants brighten spaces

Winter plants brighten spaces

By Carrie Dunlea

Spring and summer have the colorful blooms and rich greenery that make the great outdoors so lush and inviting. Autumn is awash in vibrant colors that beckon people outdoors to explore. But winter has a poor reputation with regard to natural beauty. While it’s true that many plants and wildlife retreat into hibernation come the colder temperatures, some choose the wintertime to bloom. Other plants and shrubs continue to hold on to their leaves and color despite the cold.

Hardy winter plants do more than just survive the snow and ice. Many thrive and have the potential to add that unexpected touch of color to an otherwise dreary landscape.

In addition to berry bushes that can feature bright red, yellow and orange berries perfect for holiday decorating, plenty of other plants are visually appealing through colder temperatures. 

• Mahonia: Some varieties of mahonias bloom in the winter and can be hardy up to USDA Zone 9. The close

relative Oregon grape holly will flower in very early spring.

• Camellia: Camellias grow flowers similar in shape and size to roses. They range in shade from light pink to bright red. Camellias can bloom all year long in moderate temperature zones. Even in colder zones, some cold climate hybrids can continue to add welcome color to the garden.

• Daphne: The fragrant flowers of many daphnes appear in mid-winter. The variety Jacqueline Postill is evergreen. 

• Evergreen holly: Perhaps the evergreen holly is the quintessential winter plant. Green shiny leaves and bold red berries can be a bright spot in a winter garden. A holly hedge also can serve as a wind and privacy barrier.

• Japanese pieris: Flower buds on this shrub, sometimes called the “Mountain Fire,” thrive from fall through winter. This shrub needs moist, well-drained soil and should be placed in a shaded location in warmer climates.

• Hellebore: Also called the “Christmas Rose,” hellebores can be delightful in areas of the country where winter flowers tend to be rare. The plant bears pure white flowers that often age to pink.

• Snowdrop: These delicate white blooms often pop out of a layer of snow even before the first crocuses of spring. Snowdrops can wait out harsh weather and even extended snow events before eventually sprouting.

• Crape myrtle: There are around 50 species of these trees and shrubs that are native to parts of Asia and India. The trees bloom beautifully and continue to hold on to their bright colored flowers in warmer climates.

• Winter jasmine: If you want to create a mid-winter color splash, consider the climbing winter jasmine, which is hardy in zones 5 to 10 and blooms in January.

• Jelena witch hazel: These curly, odd-shaped blooms have a rich, copper color and can bloom as early as January. This plant also is an orange-red color in autumn.

• Kaffir lily: Also known as the  “Red River lily,” these perennials appear in the fall but can still bloom on mild days in the winter. These plants prefer wet conditions.

• Winter vegetables: Planting cabbage, spinach or swiss chard can give you something fresh to eat through late autumn and even into winter if you have a greenhouse or cold frame in the yard. 

Winter may be characterized by dreary landscapes, but plenty of plant life thrives in spite of the chill.

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