Winter Plants for the Pacific Northwest

Now that the leaves have fallen its a perfect time to take a good look at your garden.Does it still look good after all the perennials and annuals have finished? Is there anything in bloom during the winter? Here in the Pacific Northwest there are many plants you can add to your garden to give it winter interest. I like to think of them as the bones of the garden. These are our evergreens. We often take them for granted until everything else is finished. Evergreens play a huge role in the garden. Not only are they the bones of the garden, during the growing season they act as a backdrop for all the colour we add to our gardens. Lets take a look at a few tough evergreens for the garden.

This is Viburnum davidii above. It grows in zones 4-9 and is tolerant of many soil types. I have an acidic soil and they thrive in my garden. I find that they prefer a little shade from the afternoon sun. I love this useful plant for its deeply veined leaves. Its grows to about three feet high and about four feet wide. It makes a lovely foundation shrub.

Okay, any grass that can look this good in December will have a place in my garden. Some people are turned off by brown grasses but they add a different color aspect into the garden. If you look closely on this plant some blades have almost a reddish tinge.This plant also grows easily in a container. This was given to me by a friend and came without a name. I believe it to be a leather leaf sedge.

This is one of my favourite plants, Senecio. It hasn’t flowered for me although it is supposed to have yellow daisy like flowers. I love this shrub for its gray leaves. I have it planted in a south facing location underneath my roses. It loves the heat. This plant is hardy to zones 5-9. Its grayish green leaves are great used in arrangements. In my garden this plant only grows a couple feet high and about three feet wide. A cold winter will kill it back but it successfully recovered from temperatures as low as -10 Celsius.

Would you love to have a Holly tree but don’t want a big tree? Why not plant Osmanthus? I love my Osmanthus ‘Variegatus’ at this time of year. I can clip a few branches for Christmas arrangements. This is a slow growing shrub. Mine is about three feet high after four years. It is a great plant to brighten up a dark corner. Osmanthus can be planted in full sun to partial shade in almost any soil.

Of course, a winter garden would not be complete if I didn’t mention Rhododendrons. They grow so well in the pacific northwest. Rhododendrons love acid soil. Selected by bloom time, you can have Rhododendrons blooming from January to July. Their flowers come in all different colours with there being well over 10,000 named varieties. As far as selecting a site for your plant, I have always found that the large leaved Rhododendrons prefer more shade and the small leaved plants will tolerate a full sun location. Give your Rhododendrons a well drained soil. They are susceptible to root rot.

When I moved to this home seven years ago, I looked at the bones of the garden and all I saw was green, the same green everywhere. How boring! That had to change. I added this Aucuba japonica to brighten up the darkness created by the seventy five foot cedar hedge in front of my home. This shrub is happy planted near the cedars. It needs shade from the sun and does well in deep shade. It was a perfect fit. It is often commonly referred to as the gold dust plant or spotted laurel. The gold and green colouring really lightens this corner of the yard.
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I talked about blooms earlier. This is one plant that I highly recommend. Viburnum bodnantense starting blooming in my garden in the first week of December and it will continue until February. The pink flowers are fragrant and such a joy to look at as I sit here looking out the window from my desk. It can grow to be a large shrub to ten feet or more. Mine is probably fifteen feet high but it has been here for a long time.
I hope I have you thinking about your garden and its design. A garden is never finished, it always evolves. Winter is that quiet time when we can sit back and plan new designs. What changes will you be making in 2012?

3 thoughts on “Winter Plants for the Pacific Northwest

  1. Gonna move my aucuba to the big cedar on the south side. Thanks for the notion. Do you know osmanthus fragrans, Tea Olive? Incredible fragrance.

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