The Gift of Color in a Winter Landscape

A garden is for all seasons, but it’s always possible to super-charge your landscape for your favorite season. For some people, it’s all about garden beds bursting with summer-blooming perennials (they can put up with barren-looking beds during the dormant season).

But winter interest will be a priority for you if you are fond of the way icicles glisten in the sun on a Red Twig Dogwood or the way snow on the branches of conifers lets the imagination see horticultural “caricatures.”

Coral Bark Maple

If winter is your favorite season, consider adding these plants to your garden:

  • Plants and trees with red bark. These include the Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’), the Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’) and the Marina Strawberry Tree (Arbutus x ‘Marina’).
  • Colorful conifers. Consider the Blue Ice Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’) and the Dwarf Golden Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’).
  • Trees and plants that bloom in late winter. You might use the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis sp.), the early blooming Hellebores (Lenten rose sp.) and the Winter Sun hybrid Oregon Grape (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’).

It’s a bonus that most of these versatile plants can have a place in any garden.

Take a break from the holiday buzz to breathe in the clean winter air and take a look around your garden. Envision where you might like to give your landscape the gift of color.

— Season’s Greetings from Michael Muro Garden Design





Living Decor

conifer arrangementConsidering holiday decorating with the greens from your garden? A client asked me for some suggestions this year, and I thought I’d share them with all of you.

Evergreen conifer arrangements, like the holidays themselves, add sparkle to the shortest, darkest days of the year. And even if you are taking a year off from the holiday cheer, you can celebrate the winter solstice.

Evergreens are the natural garden resource for decorating in the winter. Winter greens can be used almost anywhere inside or out (as long as you keep them away from flames). If you have a garden, a trip outside with a pair of clippers will get you started.

Your evergreen conifer arrangements can be as simple as arranging a collection of cut branches in a small vase or as ambitious as crafting a wreath. However, your evergreen arrangements need not look typically traditional. Few of my ideas include red bows, gold foil, faux fur or candy canes.

A door swag is easy to make, and what better way to greet guests than with the smell of freshly cut pine? I use boughs I collect when doing my regular winter pruning. All you need  is a few branches and some wire to secure the stems and make a wire loop for hanging. Evergreen conifer cuttings will stay fresh much longer outdoors but they are heavenly indoors as well where you can see them up close and enjoy the scents.

If you are in the mood and have a little time, consider making evergreen arrangements to give as gifts as well as for your own enjoyment. I made this 30-inch-tall arrangement in about 20 minutes, including cutting the branches. A great gift — and no Internet or phone ordering required!

Add interest to your evergreen arrangements by using a variety of colors and textures. Some of my favorite evergreens include:small pine arrangement

  • Chamaecyparis obtusa – Hinoki Cypress
  • Cedrus atlantica (Glauca Group) – Blue Atlas Cedar
  • Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’ – Blue Ice Arizona Cypress
  • Cuppressus x leylandii ‘Gold Rider’ – Gold Rider Leyland Cypress
  • Taxus baccata – English Yew (many varieties have berries)

For dramatic contrast, add bare twigs or a broadleaf evergreen like Laurus nobilis – Sweet Bay.

All of these plants and trees are attractive in a winter landscape. When critiquing your garden this winter — with an eye to making improvements in the spring — consider some of these plants (and their dwarf forms, for smaller gardens). They look great all year long and require little maintenance or water once established.

Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and fall planting.




Conifers in Containers

Dwarf HinokiThe change of seasons presents opportunities for dramatic new container garden compositions. Dwarf conifers can be the perfect pick-me-up for sparse-looking containers.

You’ll find that conifers are durable and easy to grow. They need little care and most dwarf conifers grow so slowly that they can thrive for years before outgrowing their spaces.

Conifers come in an array  of dramatic shapes, colors, and complex textures. Colors range from blue and green to yellow and even white variegation. There are dense, compact conifers shaped like globes or buns, ones with luxurious, fern-like foliage that curves and twists, and others with delicate needles that weep and drape. Some conifers look soft and fluffy while others sport stiff, sturdy needles. Whatever shapes or colors you choose, you’ll find that conifers really “pop” against winter skies and glow in the beams of accent lighting.

Dwarf conifers are readily available in most nurseries at this time of year, so now is a great time to update the pots on your patio.

Some of my favorite mini conifers include:Dwarf Conifer

Chamacyparis obtusa ‘Minama’ – Minima Hinoki Cypress. A compact mound with rich, dark-green spray-like foliage dotted with grass-green new growth.

Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘White Pygmy’ – White Pygmy Dwarf False Cypress. A petite cushion of soft yellow-green sprays of needles.

Tsuga canadensis ‘Minuta’ – Minuta Canadian Hemlock. A tight-mounding cushion with a tiny version of the needles of the giant Canadian Hemlock.

Dwarf and mid-size conifers are also wonderful garden specimens that add evergreen structure to the winter garden and take center stage in the dormant season.

Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and fall planting.