Hatton: Winter color in your garden

The November/December issues of gardening magazines generally have articles about going into the backyard and cutting evergreen boughs and other plant material for seasonal decorations. There are talented people locally who can do just that, but I am not one of them.


We often conjure images of places in the northeast and northwest where evergreens like hemlocks, spruce, fir, and pine grow prolifically. While this may be a warm, sentimental idea and some of these do grow here, we rarely have or see a large stand of such plants from which we can just go outside and snip enough things here and there to create wreathes and garland. We do, however, have many plants that give winter color to our gardens which, if one is creative enough, can be used for decoration.

One of the more colorful is heavenly bamboo (Nandina). This plant not only produces colorful leaves in the fall and winter, but also can be loaded with bright red berries. My dwarf plants have never had berries as the small species produce little, if any, fruit, but the large plants heavily produce every year.

Of course, an old stand-by in many parts of the country is the holly (Ilex spp.). The females of these can also produce berries (if there is a male plant to fertilize the female) and the leaves are generally dark green and glossy. Most holly berries are red; however, there are varieties that produce yellow or orange berries. I have a weeping yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) that produces red berries as well as several Nellie Stevens hollies (Ilex ‘Nellie Stevens’) that produce red berries. There are other hollies that grow well here also that can be used.

Firethorn (Pyracantha) also does well in this area. Although I have never seen any, these plants can produce yellow and white berries in addition to the more common ones in various shades of orange. Not as friendly to work with due to their sharp thorns, they are nonetheless beautiful plants.

Oregon grape holly (Mahonia spp.) has many varieties that produce both colorful leaves in shades of green, purple, bronze, red, and orange in different seasons and multi-colored berries in shades of blue and blue-black.

Cotoneaster has several hundred different species and varieties that yield many different colors to both foliage and fruit. The foliage ranges from light to dark green to grey and the leaves can have many different shapes and sizes. Berries range from pink or bright red to orange and even maroon or black.

The many varieties of ornamental grasses we grow also provide interesting seed heads in fall and winter. Not as colorful as berries, the seed heads still provide a variety of color through differing shades of white, gold, and brown. And they add a distinctive form to decorations.

I’m sure that those of you who are able design with these plants can add other local plants to the list. For those of you like me, be content with enjoying the seasonal decorations out in the garden.

This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Hatton: Winter color in your garden