Winter Garden Plants Winter Garden Plants

Many gardeners think of winter as a time for retreating to the gardening books and planning for the coming spring. However, if you have a protected, sunny nook, you can create a winter garden that takes advantage of the cheery berries and greenery of winter's evergreens as well as highlighting the beauty of some of mother nature's hardier flowering plants.

Mild winters, and protection from wind will be essential for your winter garden, so think of creating some shelter through existing evergreen hedges or buildings that exist on your property. These three plants are fairly easy to care for and will be attractive all year long.

Heather is a hardy (Zone 4), colorful plant that can add some drama to your garden. Heather's leaf color can vary which makes this plant an outstanding choice for a winter garden. Make sure heather is in full sunlight, but will not get overheated in the summer. Heather is a low plant; not quite ground-cover, but they don't spread a great deal.

Plum pudding Heuchera, also called coral bells, can add a dramatic flair to your winter garden with their vibrant purple leaves. Heuchera is a clump-forming perennial that flowers in the summer. Keep this plant in the full sun, and make sure to mulch well, especially in the North. In zones above 4, you may find heuchera unsuitable, so consult your gardening expert.

Finally, nothing is more stunning in a winter garden than the Christmas Rose, or Helleborus niger. These gorgeous flowers are hardy in zones 4 - 8 in winter's darkest months. Christmas roses prefer partial shade and the shelter of deciduous trees. This is probably due to their preference for a mulched, enriched soil. Planting should be done in early spring, although you can begin sowing them in pots in early to late fall. Once Christmas roses are established, do not move them.

As long as you are below zone 6, you can even grow salad greens, certain kinds of hardy cabbage and even carrots into the mild part of winter. Again, make sure your winter garden area is protected from strong winds and still provides plenty of natural sunlight. Check with you local nursery for the best greens for your area and climate. Most plants will become dormant during the snowy parts of the season, but may continue to grow when warmed by the sun. This will not be true in regions where snow remains for months at a time.

Winter does not have to be a time for wishing and planning, but can be an active gardening season. With a little creative thinking, some planning and warm clothes, you can enjoy fresh produce, beautiful flowers and vibrant colors even during the darkest season.

© 2006

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