Lots of people think you can't have a colorful winter garden. Wrong.
And you don't even have to have a particularly green thumb. But a little education about what to plant helps.
Local nurseries are the best place to learn which plants are best to use in what seasons. These businesses are growing, buying and selling the plants that work for whatever season we're in, be it winter or summer.
Next, visit public gardens, which are usually planted with seasonal color. At the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden in Baton Rouge and the Hammond Research Station in Hammond, researchers are doing all the work for us. They study plants and do trials to determine what grows best then report on them. That’s where Louisiana Super Plant selections, tough and beautiful plants that perform well in Louisiana landscapes, are made.
Great landscaping companies and architects also are on top of which plants perform best for each season. For inspiration, check out the plantings next time you're waiting in line at a drive-through restaurant.
So the best advice for growing a colorful winter garden is to pay attention to what you see around you. Take a picture and take it to the nursery. Someone there can identify the plant that caught your eye and help you locate one.
The most functional and attractive landscapes have a place for every type of plant, including permanent fixtures such as trees, shrubs and turf grass as well as not-so-permanent annuals and perennials.
A colorful start to your landscape is camellias, which are in their prime in winter. With thousands of cultivars to pick from, you can find colors and forms that add a charming look to any garden.
Evergreen hollies are also showing off their gorgeous red berries now. And some roses and even azaleas continue to bloom.
Annuals and perennials are where you can really up the color in your landscape.
Annuals complete their life cycle in one year, which means the next season is a chance to start all over again. Trends come and go. So it is with plants.
Here is a list of great performers for winter. The varieties in parentheses are Louisiana Super Plants: Alyssum, baby’s breath, dianthus (Amazon and Jolt series), ornamental kale (Redbor), pansies, petunias (Supertunia Vista Bubblegum), poppies, snapdragons, stock and violas (Sorbet series).
Some perennials will come back year after year from their roots but typically die back in the winter. Others, however, dazzle in winter. Some traditional plants that do well in the South are Armeria or thrift plant, columbine (Swan series), crocus, cyclamen, daffodils, delphinium (Diamonds Blue), foxglove (Camelot series), heliotrope, hellebore, leucojum or spring snowflake, Lenten rose, paperwhites, primroses and reticulated iris.
With a mild winter, some plants such as ligularia, sedums (Lemon sedum) and salvias will continue to bloom if protected.
Some evergreen perennials for Louisiana are ajuga, bergenia, blue fescue, creeping raspberry or creeping jenny, evergreen miscanthus, foam flower, hardy ice plant, sedges and many ornamental grasses.