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Local Landscapes: Winter landscape color -- is it possible?


Jeff Wilson/MSU Extension Service



Many people think of winter as a time when nothing is happening in the landscape. This is not true at all; lots of plants shine their brightest during the coldest months. Let's talk about some plants you can use that will add lots of color to your winter landscape. 




Cool weather annuals 


The most popular cool season annuals are pansies, snapdragons and ornamental cabbage and kale. With pansies and snapdragons, there are a wide range of colors to choose from in order to match any landscape. Some prefer the smaller Viola species such as Johnny Jump Up. All of these will bloom until late next spring and they all look best when planted in large groups.  


Some other plants to try for color are mustard, lettuce, and Swiss chard. With mustard I prefer the Red Giant. With lettuce I really like Red Sails. And with Swiss chard Bright Lights is one of the best. There are, of course, other varieties of each if these do not match your landscape theme. Shop around until you find what looks best in your garden.  


Showy winter shrubs 


There are over 30 ornamentals that provide some form of color during winter months. Some of the ones you should plant for blooms are camellia, Chinese snowball, winter honeysuckle, winter jasmine, forsythia, quince, spirea and leatherleaf mahonia.  


Some of the plants that have winter fruit are ginkgo, pyracantha, deciduous and evergreen holly, yaupon, dogwood, nandina and especially cotoneaster. Mixing a few of these into your landscape can take it from drab to beautiful during those cold winter months.  


It is important to remember to select healthy plant material at the nursery/garden center and to choose plants that are free of insects and diseases, and that are growing vigorously. Dig a wide, shallow hole or till the entire bed area 6 inches deep before planting.  




Think spring 


Spring flowering bulbs should also be planted in November. Remember to plant the bulb twice as deep as the bulb's diameter. Some bulbs may need to be chilled before planting, so be sure to ask your local landscape professional.



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