While the northern states are shivering under blankets of snow, here in Texas we can enjoy our typical winter weather. Sure the winter nights can be biting and when the North wind blows, you’ll know its winter but for most of us, sunshine means warm days to enjoy. It’s still winter and without summer and fall’s green and verdant foliage around, our gardens can look bleak and brown.
It only takes a few dabs of color to transform the dullest landscape and a little green goes a long way. Even better, is the realization that gardening in winter is virtually insect-free as long as you plant after the first frosts. Here are a few old favorites to get you going, so start planning your Texas winter garden now.
Ever popular, brightly colored pansies will be on display from early fall but shouldn’t be planted until temperatures drop; too much heat and they won’t thrive, anything below 70 degrees is good.
Related to pansies, but more old-fashioned, little violas are reliable and self-seeding annuals also known as “johnny jump ups” that produce masses of tiny blooms in yellow and purple. Colorful varieties of ornamental cabbage come in striking rosettes of purple, lavender, rose, and the varicolored green and cream. If you’re planting these after the first frosts, pick larger plants as the small ones won’t grow big until spring.
Another old-fashioned favourite is the bedding dianthus, also known as “pinks,” a reliable choice for winter color. The blooms that appear in the warmer spells can be white, purple, red and some pretty combinations. Dianthus is long lasting, through spring and summer and will only need replanting the following fall.
Bulbs are always a candidate for winter color, such as the ever-present “paper whites” with their lovely smell. Try a mixed bed of this white narcissus along with snow drops, golden jonquils and yellow and purple Crocus for a feature in your front garden.
Berries can also provide plenty of seasonal color and if you select varieties that aren’t popular with the birds, the brightness will last all winter. Pyracantha, nandinas and hollys bear orange, red and yellow berries for an extra pop of winter brights.
Foliage is important especially if it’s dark green and scented. Rosemary has diminutive bright blue flowers, not showy, but combined with the deep green, scented foliage, this shrub is a must for winter in all but the coldest Texas gardens.
Tough, old fashioned “purple heart” is a popular and colorful border plant as far north as Dallas. The ordinary bedding plant “dusty miller” is an essential “white” beds (pots too) from autumn to spring.
The ground cover phlox known as “thrift,” flowers from January until summer while the “pin cushion plant,” is a mound of evergreen leaves that puts out pin cushion-headed blooms when it wants, winter too. The native plant known as “four nerve daisy” is a hardy yellow to be counted on for winter color and some of the verbenas, “Magenta Lace” and Mexican verbena can bloom as well in winter as they do in summer.
In late winter, the flowering quince and flowering almond begin to bloom on bare, sculptural branches. And the flowers of Chinese witch-hazel and winter honeysuckle fill the air with sweet-smelling scents.
With only a modicum of care, these hardy plants will delight and brighten up the Texas winter.