Though it's hard to rival spring's glorious display of color, careful selection of fall and winter-hardy plants do offer gardeners color beyond summer's final days and, with a little luck and timely planting, a hearty enough display until spring's big debut next year.
Veggies, shrubs and grasses offer much-needed color throughout cold months, and provide spots of color via berries and multi-hued leaves.
By Althea Godfrey
While the Rogue Valley enjoys winters that are mild enough (usually) for winter gardening, the
best winter gardens are planted before summer's official end.
That's true for both planters and annual planting beds. It's a hard thing to rip out those petunias, especially after they have a resurgence of bloom and beauty during September's milder weather. Still, acting with fortitude will improve the look of your garden beds during winter's dreary weather.
Take out summer annuals, including the roots, amend the soil with planting compost and fertilizer, and plant the space with winter-interest plants. When you do it this way, plants have enough time to put on some top growth before they become dormant in the cold. They will also have more root development and look better in the spring, when they have another growth and flower display.
Container gardeners have the option of planting in a second pot. Leave your riot of zinnias or impatiens until their beauty fades naturally. Plant a second set of containers with winter plants — pansies, ornamental kale, cabbage, ornamental evergreen and grasses — to rotate into place when it's time. These will look good until May or so, when…
well, you get the picture.
Toni Devenney, sales associate for Ashland's Valley View Nursery, suggests combinations of grass and serviceberry (Amelanchier). For a colorful lineup in full sun, plant this shrub (with berries that taste like grapes) at the back of a large planter and surround with combinations of grass. Use blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens), which grows to about 3 feet. For fall color, intermingle with colorful dahlias. For a more unusual touch, opt for the perennial chocolate cosmos to add a splash of light brown and the aroma of cocoa.
Penny Fullmer, chief operations officer for Carol's Colors, goes for the most faithful of fall/winter combinations, pansies combined with flowering winter cabbage. This combo provides a nice winter landscape, and a veggie supply, to boot, she says.
"This would create a really nice landscape that would make it through winter," Fullmer says. For something a bit more spectacular, plant a combination of solid and variegated leaf hellebores, or Lenten rose, surrounded by pansies in a porch planter or in a large whiskey barrel near an entryway. A great understory plant, hellebores will bloom early to late winter in pinks and white, and requires full shade in our climate.
For a taller display in containers in partial shade, such as alongside a porch rail or on a back patio, that blooms from mid-fall to early winter, plant a variety of asters, says landscape designer Charles Brooks.
"I'm an aster fan. I like white and purple asters," Brooks says. "It's nice to plant asters that will start blooming now, and others that will start blooming later. Put them together for a bed that always has color"¦ I'd plant shrubbed crape myrtle in back as a foundation and then do the asters in front."
As an added touch, Brooks encourages putting evergreen throughout various beds, a reliable source of green all year round. To keep things interesting, Brooks says, incorporate statuary, garden ornaments and other figurines.
For an autumn display, mums and dusty miller make for a nice contrast, says Grange Co-Op nursery associate Greg Stewart.
"Mums are wonderful fall bloomers and you can buy them August through October and there are lots of colors, says Stewart. "Most varieties will bloom into mid-October." For an added splash, verbena 'Homestead Purple,' a perennial 1 to 2 feet high, will add deep purple and green until frost. It comes in both upright and trailing varieties. Give it good drainage if you want it to persist. A durable standard, dusty miller provides a pastel highlight, especially welcome on our dark winter days.
These are just a few choices for the fortunate gardeners of our region. Remember to respect your planting bed's winter sun exposure and drainage conditions for the best blooms and color all year round.