Happy Holidays!

However you feel about this time of year, one thing is certain: very soon, the days will begin to get longer. That brings the promise of spring, but until then, anything can happen with the weather.

hellebores Jacob Niger

Meanwhile, what I call the “simple treasures” of winter will be making things a lot brighter outside. Here are some of my favorite colorful plants and flowers that deserve a prominent position in your winter garden.

Helleborus ‘Jacob Niger’. The earliest hellebore (or Lenten Rose) to bloom in the Pacific Northwest, it’s also called the Christmas Rose. It usually starts to bloom at the end of December, and its white flowers with cheery yellow stamens are well preserved by the cool temperatures. In addition to pristine white flowers, it has a fresh, grass-green foliage and a compact growth habit, so it holds its own as a garden plant long after most other hellebores look leggy and spent. It’s impressive planted en masse in a shade garden or used as an accent in seasonal containers.

Pinus mugo ‘Carsten’s Wintergold’. A compact, tidy mugo pine that glows against winter skies, the ‘Carsten’s Wintergold’ looks dramatic in a colbalt or black pot or as part of a mixture with contrasting dwarf conifers. Like all mugo pines, it likes full sun and is drought tolerant once established. You’ll find it needs little to no maintenance and is not fussy about soil conditions.

Gaultheria procumbens ‘Winter Splash’. Like other wintergreen plants, it sports edible holiday-red berries during wintertime. However, unlike other wintergreens, it has variegated green-and-white foliage that turns pink in winter — an eye-catching combination just when you want it the most. Only about six inches tall, ‘Winter Spash’ is essentially a well-behaved ground cover, one that thrives in a woodland-type environment.

At this time of year getting outdoors in the crisp air to do some gardening or go for a walk is always a good choice. It’s also a great opportunity to see what plants you might like to add to your garden for winter interest.

Enjoy the season!

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