Brian Minter: Plants for winter coloring and feeding wildlife

Winter colors should be planted on the terraces or in the gardens with limited space, not only for the sake of our mood, but also for the benefit of the animals around us.

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As the days get darker, wetter, and colder, the color of our garden needs to become proportionately more vivid. Winter colors should be planted on the terraces or in the gardens with limited space, not only for the sake of our mood, but also for the benefit of the animals around us.

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Creating just a small habitat planting will make a significant difference. It is much easier to do in areas with milder climates; but even in Zones 4 and 5, where winter temperatures often drop below -25 ° C, winter colors can also provide food and shelter for local birds.

When the daytime temperature rises to 10 C, many bees are still actively looking for pollen and nectar. Anna’s hummingbird is here now looking for nectar. As natural food sources begin to disappear, our wintering birds need alternative food, and our gardens can certainly play a key role.

Most people are unaware of the many plants that bloom in the winter that can help wildlife. In coastal areas, for example, long-lasting winter noises are just beginning to open and, depending on the variety, their flowering will last until spring as a source of nectar and pollen.

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The new gold collection of early flowering finches, especially of the Heuger family in Germany, such as H. niger Jacob and Hn Joseph, will open soon. The well-known Christmas rose, adorned with large, upward-looking, pure white flowers and yellow stamens, is now blooming early and is full of pollen and nectar for the bees.

The Camellia sasanqua, which blooms in winter, attracts hummingbirds like a magnet and offers a constant supply of winter color. The bright, long-flowering yellow Jasminum nudiflorum is now in bloom, as is the Pink Dawn viburnum, which will bloom until April next year. The barberry that blooms in winter, like the Winter Sun, also blooms and is another source of nectar.

All of these plants provide a long or continuous winter color, especially if they are located in the warmest part of the garden where cold weather affects them the least.

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Helleborus niger is attractive to pollinators!
Helleborus niger is attractive to pollinators! Photo: Minter Country Garden /PNG

If you haven’t planted it yet, there is still a supply of snowdrops, yellow winter aconite and crocus. Depending on the nature of our winter, they will add color as early as January. Of these bulbs, crocuses provide the best source for pollinators.

The use of berries for landscaping has declined significantly in the last few years. As a result, local producers seem to grow less of them. Ilex verticillata (deciduous holly) is probably the most valuable berry plant in the conservatory. It requires a sunny spot resistant to Zone 3 and a male and female plant for the best berry development.

Its bright red or yellow berries illuminate not only the birds ’favorites but also the winter landscape. The berry branches of Ilex verticillata are very attractive when used as stems cut into bunches and are the most sought after color for porch pots. They may be a little expensive, but they are worth it.

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A traditional evergreen favorite, piracanthas have attractive orange, red or yellow berries. They can be used all year round and look good on a wall, grid or fence. They also make effective safety plants as they have rather ugly thorns. They also get the best berry in a sunny location and provide food and protection for the birds in the winter.

Evergreen Cotoneaster salicifolius is one of my favorite filter plants. It grows fairly quickly in full sun or partial shade, grows three to four feet tall and wide, and produces a mass of tiny red berries throughout the winter. Although not a favorite of birds, they eat berries in cold weather.

Symphoricarpos (snow berry) is a native plant that has now been cultivated to produce new, rich deep pink, light pink and white berries. They have also become a favorite of many growers because they make great floral quality berry stalks that perform very well in layout and porch pots.

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Proven Winners has introduced a new variety called Proud Berry. Resistant to Zone 3, it grows to just three to four feet tall and wide, producing plenty of bright pink berries that will last through the winter. Great source for winter colors and bouquets. To encourage the growing number of berries, it should be pruned back to about one foot at the end of winter.

The contribution of deciduous shrubs cannot be overestimated. The colorful stems of the shrubby dogwood show their way in the winter glow. Traditional favorites are the so-called red and yellow twig som, but gardeners now fall in love with the Cornus sanguinea Arctic Sun and C. s. red, orange and yellow tricolor. Fire in the middle of winter. They are resistant to zones 3 and 4, illuminating the winter landscape, especially as the temperature drops. Like the native Red Osier dogwood, these varieties are bird- and wild-friendly plants.

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Japanese maples like Acer palmatum Sango-Kaku (coral maple) and Acer griseum (peeling maple) also offer a stunning winter sight like many others.

Evergreen foliage plays an important role in winter colors and as a hiding place for birds. Some new compact blue spruces like Picea pungens Baby Blue and low spherical Picea p. Globosa, a bright blue hue that is especially intense at cooler temperatures. Blue ryegrass, such as Beyond Blue, also uplifts the winter color. Other grasses such as the golden Acorus gramineous Ogon and Carex oshimensis Everillo and C. p. Evergold, add some nice winter light, too.

The trend is returning to colorful, compact conifers, and the selection is now quite remarkable. Dwarf chamaecyparis (like Verdoni), thuja (like Rheingold) and compact cryptomers that turn purple in winter are all great garden or container plants.

This is the perfect time to survey the conservatory. Is it full of winter colors? Do you provide food and shelter for birds and pollinators? Once in place, winter plants will be enjoyable for years to come – for us and our feathered friends.

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