Autumn is here and the colorful blooms of spring and summer are only a memory. For many, the end of fall marks the end of interest in the garden until the coming spring. It doesn’t have to be this way! Southern gardeners can enjoy color and blooms all year long by creating a four-season garden. Nothing lifts the spirits like looking outside at an exciting garden display during the long bleak months of winter.
The fall is a great time to start planning and planting for year-round interest. You will be surprised by how many options you have. Here are just a few of possibilities that will provide colorful foliage, blossoms, scent or unusual structure and texture during the cold months of the year.
Camellias – Nothing is more southern than the camellia, and this evergreen plant provides weeks of gorgeous blooms. The Camellia sasanqua produces flowers from October through December. The Yuletide Camellia (Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’) comes alive with gorgeous red flowers just in time for the holidays. The Camellia japonica begins blooming as early as January and can last well into April. A favorite is the pink and fragrant Camellia japonica ‘Kramer’s Supreme.’
Witch Hazel – This large, beautiful and fragrant flowering shrub blooms from late January until mid-March in colors from yellow to copper to red. In addition to winter flowers, the plant offers the added benefit of brightly colored fall foliage. A popular cultivar is ‘Arnold Promise’ with yellow flowers that appear in late February and can last up to a month.
Winter Daphne (Daphne odora) – This evergreen shrub is prized for its fragrance. The flowers are small pink or white nosegays that appear from late January to March. It is a somewhat fussy plant that demands good growing conditions to avoid root rot, but it will reward you each winter with beauty and scent. Some favorite cultivars are ‘Alba’ with white flowers and ‘Aureo-Marginata’ with pink flowers and white centers.
Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis) – The 2005 Perennial Plant of the Year is a spreading evergreen perennial that surprises us in January or February with a profusion of small bell-shaped nodding blossoms in a variety of colors that last for months.
Plants with Berries and Colorful Foliage:
Flowers aren’t the only way to introduce color during the cold months. Look for plants with bright foliage and colorful berries.
Pyracantha (‘Fire Thorn’) – This evergreen shrub is often seen espaliered against the house or wall and wears brilliant red, orange or yellow berries from fall through the winter.
American Beautyberry – This deciduous shrub is a garden favorite for its display of clusters of small, iridescent purple fruit along the branches from fall through winter.
Nandina (‘Fire Power’) – An exciting accent plant that livens up the winter when the foliage turns bright red!
Trees that Look Great without Leaves:
Many deciduous trees are terrific additions to the garden because of their interesting structure, color and bark. Look for trees like Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’), a small tree grown primarily for its corkscrew branch pattern. The Weeping Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’) offers a dramatic weeping shape. River Birch (Betula nigra) and Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) have interesting exfoliating bark and the bark of Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-Kaku’) provides vivid coral color and is a striking focal point in the winter garden.