The brilliant colors of fall are peaking in the Treasure Valley right now, and soon they’ll give way to winter, without much color at all.
But garden master Jim Duthie says it doesn’t have to be that way. He’s got some suggestions for plants you can put in your yard and garden now, to brighten things up when winter gets here.
October is over, and November has begun, so we’re about halfway through fall on the way to winter. But if you act quickly, before the ground freezes and the snow flies, there are some plants that you can put in your garden now to provide a little color against the drab gray of winter.
Idaho can be pretty in winter, but sometimes the only colors you see are different shades of white and gray. But there are many plants you can grow in your garden that will provide a cheery splash of color against the frozen landscape. Here are a few good choices for you to consider:
Holly has always been associated with winter. There are hundreds of varieties, from small bushes to large trees. Some, like winterberry, lose their leaves in the fall, letting the bright red berries stand out against the dull background. And the birds will appreciate the berries when other food is hard to come by. Fall is a good time to plant holly, but keep in mind that it’s the female holly plants that produce the berries, so make sure you get the right ones.
Speaking of berries, firethorn, also known as pyracantha, is a hardy perennial that’s attractive all year long. It has small clusters of white flowers in the spring, against glossy green leaves, and the yellow, orange and red berries remain through winter as food for the birds. But choose the location carefully, since it does have sharp thorns.
Red twig dogwood is another favorite. After the leaves are gone, this plant has striking red stems and branches that really catch the eye, especially against dark evergreens or a snowy landscape.
Looking for something showier? Try flowering quince, with its masses of pink, red or white blossoms that brighten up the yard in late winter and early spring. Most varieties grow to be up to ten feet tall, but there are some dwarf varieties that top out at only about three feet. It’s easy to grow, and it tolerates extreme weather and neglect.
When you think of heather, you probably think of the Scottish Highlands. But heather is a great winter plant in the home landscape, with little flowers from spring to fall, and thick foliage that lasts through the winter for a touch of green.
And here’s an unusual winter plant for both color and texture. Witch hazel has long been known for its fragrance and medicinal properties, but the winding, twisted branches add a pleasant touch to winter landscapes, and orangish blossoms appear in late winter and early spring.
Snowdrops are one of the first flowers of the new year, showing up weeks before crocuses, often poking through a layer of snow. Their milky white blooms grow from bulbs that need to be planted in the fall. But since the flowers are small, you’ll want to plant quite a few to get a dramatic effect.
Finally, a popular favorite, flowering kale and cabbage comes in a variety of colors, from white to pink to purple and red. Its ruffled foliage is fancier and more colorful than the edible kind, and it tolerates the cold very well. It will dress up an empty garden when everything else is gone.
Just a few colorful ideas to brighten up those winter days that are just a few weeks away.
You can find those plants, as well as many other varieties of winter plants, at most nurseries and garden centers.
Fall is a good time to plant, since bushes and shrubs can get established before the weather turns too cold, and they’ll be ready to dress up your yard on those gray and snowy winter days.