Tips for adding colour to win­ter gar­dens

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Contents - By Shauna Dob­bie

If you long for colour out­doors in the win­ter gar­den, don’t de­spair. Study your gar­den over the next few months from the com­fort of a win­dow seat and re­solve to add some win­ter in­ter­est to the bare patches when the ground is warm and work­able this spring.

A shrub that pro­duces berries will bring both colour and birds. Even the hardi­est ever­green hol­lies can be a risk in an ex­posed lo­ca­tion, but the na­tive holly known as win­ter­berry, which loses its leaves, pro­duces big bunches of red berries. Vibur­nums and choke­berry are other berry-laden shrubs that are hardy enough to sur­vive our winters. Some roses have at­trac­tive hips, par­tic­u­larly Rosa glauca and R. ru­gosa, which per­sist into win­ter.

In­ter­est­ing or colour­ful bark is an­other sight for win­ter­weary eyes. Slen­der white birch clumps pro­vide con­trast in sum­mer but lend a so­phis­ti­cated tone-on-tone ver­ti­cal fea­ture when the snow flies. Dog­woods—red osier and the yel­low-twigged Siberian—are well known by pro­fes­sional land­scap­ers for their win­ter colour.

For form, the re­peat­ing wavy lines of the smooth sumac can be awe-in­spir­ing; you will need plenty of room for this ag­gres­sive spreader, but the conic clus­ters of red fruit can per­sist well through win­ter, so the birds will be grate­ful.

“Win­ter blues” gets a whole new mean­ing if you plant a Colorado blue spruce. Leave a wide area for the tree to ma­ture; it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily need any com­pan­ions to look ab­so­lutely fab­u­lous in win­ter any­how.

Of course, ev­er­greens like pine and spruce are the tra­di­tional favourites. Not only do they of­fer de­pend­able shape and colour, they also catch and hold snow quite beau­ti­fully. They have the added ben­e­fit of giv­ing shel­ter from cold winds, and planted to the north of your house, they can no­tice­ably lower your heat­ing bills. Add hor­i­zon­tal in­ter­est with ev­er­greens like spread­ing ju­nipers.

Pay at­ten­tion to non-plant fea­tures as a way to add colour to the win­ter gar­den. A grey, pave­ment walk may do noth­ing for the eye, but re­place it with crushed red brick and pre­pare to be daz­zled, par­tic­u­larly with a light dust­ing of snow: snow on the brick tends to melt first, deep­en­ing the colour with wet­ness and con­trast­ing beau­ti­fully with the sur­round­ing white­ness.

A sin­gle bench or a gar­den shed can make a real state­ment if painted in a strong colour like poppy red, cobalt blue or laven­der. A bright colour is a bold move that takes some real nerve… and quite pos­si­bly more than one at­tempt to get it right. But when you suc­ceed, the ef­fect is strik­ing enough to melt even the cold­est win­ter heart.

Ev­er­greens like blue spruce and ju­niper hold snow beau­ti­fully to bring win­ter in­ter­est to the gar­den. Brightly coloured gar­den ac­cents make an even pret­tier state­ment in win­ter.

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