Diminishing the Dark, Dreary, Dreich, Drab Winter
As the days get shorter and shorter and the sun is low in the sky., our gardens are beginning to look like 50 shades of brown. Fear not, there is hope for some winter color to brighten those dark days,
The garden centres are full of pansies right now. I am not a huge pansy fan - probably because that was all you saw in the early spring up north. Once the Christmas trees, Poinsettias, and greenery is gone, look for Snapdragons and Dianthus. Snapdragons (Anthirrium majus) come in many colors and will bloom continually until the July heat takes its toll. They are not expensive so I replace mine every year.
Dianthus is another winter winner. They come in shades of red and pink and keep on going for a long time. I have had mine for four years and they are spreading. One six pack can go a long way.
There are some woody perennials that seem to bloom all Winter long. Mexican cigar plant (Cuphea vermillionaire) grows quite large and mine bloomed all winter. I plan on cutting it way back this year because it is taking over and making smacking noises when I walk by it. Butterflies love it and I have Sulphurs and Skippers on it pretty much all year long.
Shrubs can also give you winter interest. Sunshine Ligustrum (Ligustrum sinense “Sunshine” has bright yellow foliage if planted in full sun or light green foliage if planted in part shade. It grows from 3 to 6 feet, but can be pruned to size. It does not seem to be susceptible to pests like scale and whitefly so it is a perfect “go to” shrub.
And do not forget the color generated by grasses. Purple Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum “Rubrum” has good color as well as feathery seedheads.
Carex is a grass-like plant in the Sedge family and the new varieties such as “Everillo” have different colors and variegation. They do well in shade and are great border plants since they do not grow too tall.
If our winter is as warm as the last one, you may have perennials blooming all season long such as Salvias and Coneflowers. And you always have Pansies to fall back on for containers and as filler plants. I must admit that they are kind of cute with their monkey faces.