Put some color in your winter world. Plants can add hues and textures to a gray landscape.
Compared to spring, summer or fall, the winter months find the home landscape drained of color. However, with the right selection of plant material and some careful planning, winter can be made colorful and interesting.
First, decide from where the winter landscape will be best enjoyed. If it is from the inside looking out, the landscape should be designed accordingly.
If the landscape is to be enjoyed while walking through it, then the design should be so that the winter color is experienced while moving along. Large or small properties can have interesting short paths created for winter appeal. Rock or stone, a fence or gate, in addition to the plants, all add to the experience.
The main color in the unplanned winter landscape is brown-gray. Green can be added with evergreens -- pines, cedars, spruces. Shiny broad-leaved evergreens add another texture. The blue spruce and some junipers add blue hues.
Colorful fruit retention (red, blue, white, black and yellow) for both trees and shrubs is an added feature in the winter landscape. Even when fruit has started to shrivel up, it still adds character.
Twigs and branches of shrubs, such as redosier dogwood and yellow twig dogwood, provide color to the winter landscape, especially if they protrude out of snow or are coated with a thin layer of frost. The yellow flowers of the Chinese Witch Hazel add color to the winter garden and promise of the spring to come. Pussy willows have early soft gray or pink catkins which explode into yellow "blossoms."
Study deciduous trees in the winter landscape; it is important to select a tree or two for their horizontal branching. It is the horizontal branches which catch snow, adding white to the tree's bark color. Several crabapples have strong spreading branches with attractive bark.
Seed pods of perennials and fine textured ornamental grasses can all add to the garden's appeal. Evergreen ground covers come in colors from burgundy to silver. Try some very early bulbs to jump-start spring.
Don't forget the added color and activity of birds in the garden. All you need to do is provide the habitat and a feeding station located so colorful birds such as the cardinal can be enjoyed.
The garden calendar is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County and written this week by Dennis D. Bejot, county Extension director. For more information call the Master Gardener Hotline, 843-7058, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.