Adding Winter Color to the Garden

The flowering trees and shrubs of tropical Maui are behind me and I’m back in our temperate rain forest of redwood trees and all things green.  Sure, a few early blooming shrubs are flowering this time of year and are a welcome sight but I look for color in other places. If you’re looking around your garden now and seeing mostly green, here are a few suggestions to brighten things up.

Native to moist places from Northern California to Alaska,  the Red-twig dogwood is stunning in the fall with its  brilliant red foliage. In the winter, dark red stems provide a nice contrast to evergreen plants. This multi-stemmed shrub grows rapidly to 7-9 ft high and spreads to 12 ft or wider by creeping underground stems and rooting branches making it good for holding banks. Shade tolerant with small fruits that attract birds follow 2" clusters of creamy, white flowers in the summer.

Looking for a plant that’s deer-resistant, beautiful and has edible stems, too? Plant a few cherry rhubarb among your other perennials in a sunny or partial shady spot. Leafstalks have a delicious tart flavor and are typically used like fruit in sauces or pies. The leaves are poisonous, however, which is why deer avoid them.

If a tree has showy bark in winter it earns it keep in the garden. Marina strawberry tree has rich, reddish brown shredding bark on branches that tend to become twisted and gnarled with age. This evergreen tree is also pretty in the fall and winter when rosy pink flowers appear at the same time as the strawberry-like fruit. It’s a good garden substitute for its relative, the native madrone, and performs well in a wide range of climates and soils.

I also like my Coral Bark Japanese maple in winter for its striking red twigs and branches. Upright and vigorously growing in fits into narrow spots. I really like the bright yellow fall foliage, too.

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