How to Add Color to Your Winter Garden

Even the coldest season can host a color transformation. After 
freezes wipe out quick-color plants, you may want to leave some areas of the garden empty 
as you head into winter.

In containers and planting beds in highly visible areas, consider replacing tender annuals with chilly-weather favorites. What you use to stage a winter color display largely depends on where you live. In regions with mild winters, fill the garden and containers with hardy annuals that can withstand frost or even a hard freeze. Flowering cabbage and kale continue to display arresting leaves as cold weather lingers. Nemesia, pansy, snapdragon, stock, sweet alyssum, and viola persist as temperatures tumble. These colorful plants dress wintry scenes with summer-worthy hues. To flesh out the garden, be liberal in employing grasses to serve a supporting role in the winter color production. With or without seed heads, grasses can dress a garden or container throughout the cool months, adding color, movement, and texture. Succulents and herbs show strong staying power after frost arrives, especially when they're tucked into planting beds. In a mild climate, rosemary, oregano, and scented geraniums infuse the winter garden with living greenery.

Color in Snowy Climates

In frigid areas, celebrate the garden's quiet season by stuffing containers and window boxes with materials that stand up to snowfall. Gather evergreen boughs, berried branches, pinecones, and grain seed heads for an attractive mix. Leafless branches of Cardinal or yellow dogwood give winter container arrangements colorful height. Clip broadleaf evergreens,
such as holly, mountain laurel, boxwood, and rhododendron, to introduce different textures. Branches of trees that hang onto leaves through winter -- like beech and some oaks -- infuse containers with added structure and interest.

Creating Winter Pageantry

Follow these tips to make the most of winter creations composed of garden gleanings:

Place cuts carefully. When gathering branches from living plants, remember that you're pruning. 
  2. Don't leave stubs; place cuts just beyond side branches. 
  3. Try to prune evenly.
  4. Plunge stems into water. If you won't arrange your gatherings immediately, store the stems
in a bucket of tepid water in a cool place like an unheated shed.
  5. Limit water loss. Spray evergreens with an antidesiccant (sometimes called an antitranspirant), which slows water loss from stems. This keeps greens fresh longer.
Create holes in soil. If the soil in containers is a solid root mass, shove a screwdriver into the soil to create holes to hold stems.
  7. Thaw frozen soil. When an early freeze turns soil into stone, pour warm water for a gentle thaw. To avoid cracking the container, thaw just enough to permit shoving stems into the soil.

Dress Up Soil

In winter containers, top bare soil with material that enhances the display when snow isn't present: sphagnum moss, pine straw, reindeer moss, pinecones, or stones.

Quick Winter Color

Set the stage for garden drama by filling containers with winterproof materials. Choose a container that's equally winter-hardy. Concrete, stone, cast iron, wood, and fiberglass fill the bill. Moss-lined metal hayracks and baskets also survive winter weather.

For the Birds

Design a beak-pleasing buffet in a metal stand overflowing with seedy treats. Create a background of evergreen boughs so seed heads stand out.

Decorate with Red

Red winterberry branches shine in an arrangement of mixed broadleaf and needle evergreens. Scarlet rose hips contribute to the textural creation.

Formal Finery

Classic four-part harmony sings in an elegant container featuring a miniature boxwood, evergreen branches, pinecones, and moss.


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