18 December 2009

Winter color -- or, how GBBD is changing how I garden

In November, I started participating in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, the monthly event hosted by May Dream's Gardens where garden bloggers post pictures of what is blooming (or just looking pretty) in their garden. At the time, I didn't think much of it other than "Oh, this will be fun!" but it is already making me think differently about my garden. I've never focused much on having stuff in my garden in the winter -- basically November through February I just hunker down with books and catalogs and wait it out. Now, seeing all the other posts from other gardeners with bright berries, stems, and leaves in their gardens is making me think differently. 2010 is going to be the year I get serious about making my garden lovely in the months I usually ignore.

So I took a walk through the MSU horticulture gardens, and noted down what was looking good now, in the middle of December, after we've had temperatures into the teens and below.

Red twig dogwoods are looking great -- such an intense color for this time of year.

Sedum 'Angelina' -- I walked past this planting every day all summer and was completely unimpressed, but in the cold the colors have intensified, and today it shone out at me from the other side of the gardens -- this picture doesn't capture how bright it looks compared to the dim, gray Michigan winter around it. I am definitely including a lot of this in my garden for next winter.

I've always liked deciduous hollies, but this planting takes them to another level -- the Miscanthus makes a perfect background to ensure every berry glows. A great combination I'm also going to steal for my garden.

Ornamental Kale. I'm not totally sold on these... This much color this time of year is hard to turn down, but I don't like their growth habit so much. A grouping of plants doesn't seem to blend together into one mass. Does anyone know a variety which has a looser, more open habit? That's what I'd really like -- those same intense colors, but not in such a rigidly define blob.

Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard' Another plant I'm not a huge fan of in the summer, but in the dim grey winter days, that yellow is AMAZING, a burst of sunshine.

So that's what I've been looking at. What other plants for winter color should I be considering? I know I want more conifers, and I'm also considering some heaths and heathers, some of which are supposed to have great winter foliage color (but will they be hardy?) But what do you recommend? What really shines in your winter garden? Before you answer that: if you live somewhere warm, and think of marigolds as winter color I don't want to hear about it! It will just make me jealous and malcontent and I'll have to creep off to a greenhouse to recover.

7 comments:

NotSoAngryRedHead said...

I just ADORE all the colors in your garden!! Super yummy!!

Liz said...

I love the berries against the Miscanthus, definitely something to try out I think, and I have to agree on the ornamental kale, they're too blobby for me too, so as a result I've never considered them in my garden.

I can't really advise on the plants to have for winter issue, as I'm only learning myself... and if I'm honest I don't actually really have anything other than the odd confused plant that's still flowering when it ought to have died long ago.
Cyclamen are always an easy option, and always look very nice under a tree/shrub.
Have you tried winter jasmine, or other fragrant shrubs such as winter honeysuckle, sweetbox, daphne, viburnum and skimmia?

Nell Jean said...

Great eye for winter color. Nice post.

Greensparrow said...

Redhead, I wish all these colors were in my garden -- but they're not. I took all these pictures are the gardens at Michigan State University (where I work/go to school) But hopefully some of these colors will be in my garden next year!

Liz,
Great ideas -- but here cyclamen and winter honeysuckle don't get blooming until February or March -- it is just too cold! I don't think anything actually flowers here in Michigan in December and January (except maybe helleborus, but for some reason I don't like them), so I think twigs and berries are the best I'm going to get.

NotSoAngryRedHead said...

Dangit. That's what I get for ogling - I miss the words. Bah. Still, that's a pretty impressive array of colors and nicely photographed.

fairegarden said...

This is wonderful! There can be winter interest, even in your northern clime, as you have shown us so well. There is a looser purple kale called Redbor, grown mainly for eating. There is also a green and white one with the same habit called Winterbor. I have found them sold at the big box stores in spring with the veggies in four packs. They also grow easily from seed. In case you wanted to give them a try. ;-)
Frances

Greensparrow said...

Thanks for the tip Frances. I'm adding Redbor to my seed shopping list right now!