Make landscapes look good in winter
Winter in the Antelope Valley means cold nights and clear bright days. Some days are warm and beautiful, and others are cold and windy.
However, we can enjoy the outdoors during the winter and our landscapes should be attractive and interesting year-round. In other colder parts of the United States, winter means stay indoors and forget about the landscape.
When we landscape, we need to plan for a year-round landscape. It is easy to plan a landscape for the springtime, with all of the blooming plants and colorful flowers to choose from. Summer and fall has some flowering plants, and winter has only a few flowering plants to chose from.
To help the landscape look good in the winter, we need to pick plants not for their flower color, but for other features like foliage color, or the texture of the plan bark color or fruit such as berries.
Now is a great time for choosing the plants that have attractive features in the winter to add to your landscape. Good winter plants fall into three categories. The first category is plants that have winter fruit or berries. The second category is plants with leaves or foliage that have good color. The last category is plants that have winter flowers. Here are a few of the plants that meet at least one of the categories.
One of the best plants for winter color is the nandina or heavenly bamboo. Heavenly bamboo probably better known, as nandina is a very commonly used landscape plant. Sometimes it can be overused in the landscape, however the texture and growth habit it makes it a good plant. Heavenly bamboo has a lacy texture that can soften the look of walls or other structures. Heavenly bamboo leaves turn reddish color in cold temperatures.
There are many different cultivars (Cvs.) and the size of the plant depends on the cultivar. Depending on the cultivars heavenly bamboo ranges in size from two feet to 12 feet tall. Heavenly bamboo is not a true bamboo, so it does not have the evasive habit of true bamboos. However, again depending on the cultivar, some cultivars will spread quickly, but continue to grow in a clump. Heavenly bamboo requires extra iron fertilizers in our alkaline soils to show their full red potential.
Dwarf heavenly bamboo does not look like a normal heavenly bamboo or even a true bamboo. The plant has normal size leaves, but the plant does not grow over 18 inches tall. Dwarf heavenly bamboo makes a great border or accent plant in the landscape. Three to five dwarf heavenly bamboos planted around white boulders gives a nice landscape effect. In winter the plants turn reddish to purplish in color.
Firethorn is a very popular landscape plant. Firethorn are known for their bright orange or red berries and their very large and painful thorns. Firethorn is related to apples and the berries are not poisonous, however the berries can ferment on the plant and occasionally the birds eat the fermented berries, become drunk, flying into windows or staggering across the yard.
Firethorn or commonly called pyracantha on the West Coast has many different species some growing to 15 feet tall and wide and others being smaller. Pyracanthas now come in varieties that can have red, orange or yellow berries.
Another plant that is local to the mountains of southern California that look similar to the firethorn is the Toyon. Toyon grows naturally in the hills of Southern California; in fact, Hollywood was named after the plant. As settlers came to Southern California, they noticed plants that looked like holly with the red berries and they named the area Hollywoodland.
Toyon can grow to 35 feet tall and wide, however the newer cultivars usually grow to about 10 feet tall and wide and with a little pruning can be kept to about six feet in size. Toyon is a good barrier plant because it has spines on the leaves. This California native plant is drought tolerant. Toyon is planted for it’s red berries which can attract birds and for it’s similarities to holly or firethorn.
Brightbead cotoneaster is a shrub that grows about three to four feet tall with a spread of about six to eight feet wide. Brightbead cotoneaster is used in landscapes mainly because of it’s gray — green foliage and small leaves. The foliage on the plant gives a good color and texture change to the landscape. During the winter brightbead cotoneaster has scarlet colored berries on the plant giving an added touch of color. Brightbead cotoneaster is an easy plant to take care of and is drought tolerant.