If you’re a gar­dener who hates win­ter, con­sider th­ese plants

The Kansas City Star - - News - BY DEN­NIS PAT­TON Spe­cial to The Star Den­nis Pat­ton is a hor­ti­cul­ture agent with Kansas State Univer­sity Re­search and Ex­ten­sion. Got a ques­tion for him or other univer­sity ex­ten­sion ex­perts? Email them to gar­den.help @joco­gov.org.

I’m not too fond of win­ter. I find my­self star­ing blankly out the win­dow dream­ing of spring. When I miss land­scape color, th­ese plants help me sur­vive the win­ter blues.


Some­times called the crepe myr­tle of the north, this tree’s out­stand­ing at­tribute is its white peel­ing bark. Hep­ta­codium

mi­co­nioides is a small multi-stemmed tree reach­ing 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The bark is high­lighted as win­ter in­ter­est, but the plant shines in late sum­mer.

In Septem­ber, you will find Seven Sons cov­ered with white flow­ers, at­tract­ing pol­li­na­tors ga­lore. Once the petals drop sepals, the bracts hold­ing the flow­ers turn bright pink, last­ing un­til the first frost.

I ap­pre­ci­ate the shape of this plant as it grows. When it is young, it may not have the best form, but with age, the ex­posed bark ma­tures into an at­trac­tive tree.


Chamae­cy­paris pisifera, false cy­press, does not fare well in most land­scapes as we don’t un­der­stand its man­ner. I now ap­pre­ci­ate its nat­u­ral char­ac­ter­is­tics, and as a re­sult, this bright yel­low-green ever­green makes me smile.

In the ef­fort to con­trol its size, it is com­monly pruned into a ball, de­stroy­ing its beauty. When left un­pruned, it de­vel­ops a nat­u­ral leader re­sult­ing in a pyra­mi­dal grace­ful weep­ing shrub.

Many plant tags in­di­cate the size to be 3 to 5 feet. Left un­pruned, they de­velop into a small ever­green tree-like form. I’ve had one grow­ing in my peren­nial gar­den for about 10 years and it’s al­ready 7 feet tall, look­ing like a golden haystack. It re­ally beams with a cov­er­ing of snow on a cold win­ter day.


The brown flower heads of Hy­drangea ar­borescens once again make me smile on a blus­tery day. Wav­ing in the win­ter wind, I pic­ture large, soft­ball-sized white flow­ers bask­ing in the early sum­mer sun. Even dur­ing win­ter, they are still charm­ing.

Th­ese hy­drangeas are best known by the va­ri­ety Annabelle. Once only avail­able in white, pink shades are now on the mar­ket. I love look­ing at this plant in win­ter as it makes me long to grab the prun­ing shears and give it a spring cut.


The ever­green fo­liage of the Len­ten Rose, or Helle­borus ori­en­talis, catches your eye as is shines green. This low-grow­ing peren­nial is the first to bloom while still in win­ter, let­ting us know spring is on the way.

Del­i­cate pas­tel blooms ap­pear as the new growth sprouts from cold soil. Watch­ing it grow this time of year re­minds me there are just a few more weeks left of win­ter.


White and green speck­led ar­row­head-shaped leaves of Arum italicum brings a bit of cheer to the gar­den. An­other low­grow­ing peren­nial, this plant goes dor­mant in the heat of sum­mer, re­turn­ing in the fall.

Ma­ture plants have an in­con­spic­u­ous green­ish flower that de­vel­ops a bright red seed stock and stands at at­ten­tion once the fo­liage dis­ap­pears in sum­mer. The con­trast of win­ter brown and white snow draws the eye down, mak­ing it a win­ter fa­vorite.

May th­ese sug­ges­tions help you sur­vive the last of win­ter and give you in­spi­ra­tion

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