The weather has cooled off and the sun is going down much earlier here above the 47th parallel. Irrigation systems are winterized, fall maintenance is finished up, and the holidays are coming soon. Winter is just around the corner, but our yards don’t have to look dreary during the coming months. Many winter interest plants thrive and even flower during this time of year in the Puget Sound region. While most shrubs and trees lose their leaves and many perennials are cut down to the ground in the fall, there are a few broadleaf evergreens and deciduous plants that are preparing to provide winter interest that complements our main growing season.
Evergreens and Winter Flowers
Flowers don’t always require lots of sun, and winter is not necessarily an inactive time for every plant. Some iris varieties flower in winter, adding color to any garden. They can flower all winter long and even add fragrance when many plants are dormant until spring. Sedum varieties, whether groundcover or more upright types, are a great addition to winter gardens. Tough, evergreen, and thriving on neglect, sedum flowers can bloom into late fall. The Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium), as seen above, is another great choice for fall and winter color. Its fronds with hints of silver, interesting purples, greys, and puttered greens are attractive in winter gardens. Bergenia species also are attractive in winter and can take the punishment of winter weather. One variety is even named ‘Winterglow’. The leaves are usually a light to vibrant green in spring and summer, but turn to darker hues of deep purple, bronze, and even black during winter.
Flowers and evergreen leaves aren’t the only source of color available. The Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea/alba, and others) provides delightful color in the winter months. While it flowers in the spring and summer, its wintertime attraction is the vibrant red of the stems that are easily visible when the leaves have fallen. Dogwoods also produce berries that add interest all winter long. Yellow twig varieties are also available.
This is only a snippet of many winter interest plants that are available and thrive in our area, so please take a look at last year’s post about winter plants, too. When considering winter plants, be sure they are hardy to USDA zone 8a for most of lowland Puget Sound and hardy to zone 7b for areas near Olympia.