Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Colorful Plants For Fall & Winter

When fall and winter months arrive it can be difficult to find plants with blooms or leaf colors to brighten up the garden. I have found a few sturdy plants that always look good in the garden all year long. The temperatures the plants I have chosen have endured survived freezes of 25 degrees to 32 degrees here on the north coast. I have found most of these plants are also heat tolerant as well. Heaths and heathers are the perfect shrub for color combinations in the fall when you choose plants with either colorful leaves or winter blooms. There are many evergreen heaths and heathers available to keep green alive in your garden, they stay evergreen and all heaths and heather shrubs that I know of bloom in a variety of colors, including white, pink, lavender, purple, magenta and burgundy.

Heathers have a number of shrubs that have colorful leaves ideal for fall or winter months. The heathers I have in my coastal garden have yellow, orange, bronze and even purple tinges in the leaves, and the leaves are colorful all year long. Considering some of these shrubs can grow to one to two feet wide and as tall, you can have an impressive array of shrubs that always looks good year round planted in a border or lining pathways through your garden. Heaths and heathers require consistent watering the first year, then they are drought tolerant, although I always water mine weekly. Heaths and heathers need good draining soil for their delicate roots, they do not like to stand in water, contrary to them being thought of as bog plants. Heaths and heathers need at minimum six hours of sunlight for optimum growth. A trim of spent blooms once a year, carefully cutting above the hard wood of the plant will keep them looking shaped and healthy.

Rosemary is a fantastic herb that makes for a great shrub in the garden. Rosemary has done well even in my coastal garden, although ideally rosemary does its best in warm weather climates. Rosemary plants typically are upright shrubs and there are varieties that cascade over the edge of borders. In my experience rosemary always looks good, with glossy evergreen leaves, perfect for culinary uses in the kitchen, and keeps it shape well in the border. During winter months in Petaluma my rosemary bloomed profusely with small blue flowers. For fragrance, cooking, blooms and shaping the structure of a garden, you can't do wrong by using rosemary as part of your garden design.

Lavender is much like rosemary, even more fragrant with wonderful flowers in summer, trim up your lavenders and you will have sturdy shrubs as part of the bones of your garden. Lavender has a number of different color combinations when it comes to leaf color and flower color. My Grosso lavender has dark green leaves all year long, while my Goodwin Creek Grey lavender sports a soft grey, almost silver color on its leaves. My small Munstead lavenders have a greenish-grey tinge to the leaves somewhere between the other two lavender leaf colors. Lavenders need a trim after blooming, providing you with loads of lavender flowers good for sachets, to brew flowers in with tea (great combined with Russian Caravan tea), and as well shaped, always good looking shrubs to form your garden. I have never had any frost problems with lavenders, they are workhorses in the garden.

Finally I will mention cotoneaster as a good choice to add to your garden for fall and winter color. This is a wide spreading, arching shrub with white flowers in summer and orange colored berries against the small, glossy dark green leaves of the plant. I've never grown cotoneaster other than here on the north coast, but in the past two years so far the shrub looks great, needs no trimming and is full of berries all year long, adding more color as a groundcover at the base of other plants. Cotoneaster is an easy care shrub that will brighten up a dark corner in your garden all year long.

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