A Winter’s Rainbow

There are many plants that lend their colors to the winter landscape. Last time I focused on blue but this time I want to cover the rest of the spectrum a bit. Here are plants from many families that all have colored foliage – either all year round, like the Dusty Miller, or just seasonally, like the Cryptomerias that turn colors in the winter.

These beauties run the gamut, from red to brown, white to silver, golden to purple and other hues as well. They come from many families tho my favorite – the Ericaceae  – has many of them. I’ve tried to arrange them in family order but there are so many different ones that there’s a lot of variety here.

Starting off is the Cappucino Sedge, in the Cyperaceae family, with its brown grasslike leaves that lives on a corner in the front garden. Next to it is one that’s a bit hard to see but it’s there in all its red glory – the Coral Bark Japanese Maple, also known as the Sangokaku. It’s in the Sapindaceae family.

The next one will be familiar to many of you as its pretty common but I love the pure white of its foliage. The Dusty Miler is in the Asteaceae family and has lovely yellow flowers in late summer that hold on for months. The greenish white one is a Wintercreeper, also called Eunonymous Emerald Gaiety, in the Celastraceae family.

Now we come to some of my favorites – the Heath family, or Ericaceae. Here is a Lily of the Valley Shrub, or Pieris, called Little Heath, with its cream edged leaves and bright pink buds. Next to it is a small Wintergreen which is the flavor used to enhance many foods with its minty essence. By it is a Himalayan Blueberry that turns this lovely red in the winter. No berries yet but I’m hoping for some soon.

Continuing on with the Ericaceae is the Bog Rosemary, or Andromeda, I featured as blue plant last time. This is its winter color. A multi-hued plant which is even more beautiful when it’s covered with pink blossoms. Next is an odd one I found at a local nursery that is a vaccinium, like Huckleberry or Blueberry, etc. It’s the Coin Whortleberry, and I haven’t the faintest what that means! But I like it….

Next is another vaccinium, the Huckleberry that grows wild in our Pacific Northwest forests and has sweet tiny blue/black berries in the fall. It turns this lovely shade of purple and red in winter. Last in the Ericaceae is the Dog-hobble, Feterbush or as it’s more commonly known, the Leucothoe “Rainbow”. It doesn’t have as much color as it should and I’m not sure why. I may need to amend the soil with something to bring out the color more. Research is needed….

From here we go to to the Cornaceae family – the Dogwoods. This is a shot of the Bailey’s Red Twig Dogwood I featured awhile back with a tutorial on how I’ve pruned it up into a tree. It’s working well so far… The next one is a familiar one too – a Golden Bamboo, which is just starting to show that color on its stems. I’m keeping this one in a pot because it spreads like crazy and I don’t have room for it to do that. It shields us from the neighbors a bit tho so it’s nice where it is, for now anyway.

Next is the French, or Spanish, Lavender, depending on who you ask. It’s in the Lamiaceae, or Mint, family. It’s silvery foliage is a bright spot along the kitchen wall in the herb bed in winter and all year round. It has beautiful purple blue flowers in spring. The next one looks a bit peaked from the cold, but it’ll perk up soon. It’s an Elephant ears in the Saxifragaceae family and has gorgeous reddish purple blooms in summer.

Here are a couple of similar shots of the Oregon grape. In the first one you see mostly the Nandina with the Oregon grape beyond in a line of the two combined. They’re both in the Berberidaceae, or Barberry family, and go well together. You can see the colors of the Oregon grape in the second picture better. It runs a range of deep colors from bronze to red to purple. Its yellow flowers and blue berries add color in spring and summer and food for the birds and bees too.

Finally are the conifers. First are a couple of Cryptomerias in the Taxodiaceae family. First is the tiny Pygmaea which only gets to a foot and turns this lovely bronze in winter. Following it is the Elegans which gets to 30 feet and turns this gorgeous purple in winter. It’s one of my “pettables” as it’s so soft and elegant to touch. It also grows very fast. This tree is only 4 years old and it’s 9 ft tall from a foot at its start! Wow…

The last two are in the Cupressaceae family. First is a Globe Arborvitae Louie planted many years ago. It’s gotten quite large and is one of only a couple plants we actually shear to keep it in bounds or it’d get too big where it is and close off the path to the front garden. It turns this lovely shade of bronze it the winter but in summer it’s a bright green. Amazing how different it is from season to season.

Last is another favorite of mine- an Incense Cedar which grows in California in the Sierra Nevada mountains and northward. This is a cultivar called Maupin Glow from Oregon that has golden tips which will become more pronounced as it ages. It’s a bit subtle but you can see it’s golden tips OK if you enlarge it. In fact all these shots benefit from doing the slide show and seeing them larger. I know some of these are small plants but I tried to get good shot shots of them. I took all these yesterday when it wasn’t raining yet. It is now….

So that’s my latest tour. I hope you enjoyed it and see the tremendous range of colors I have in this small garden. I know there are many other possibilities that are around but these are what I have and they make a huge impact on me in walking the garden in winter. There are always colors in the garden whether it’s summer’s heat that brings them on or winter’s cold.

There are so many colors to the Rainbow of plants here and in general. I encourage you to explore their great diversity when you plan your garden or visit the nursery next time. They all add something that we wouldn’t have with just evergreens or deciduous plants. They give us beauty all year round and change as much as their deciduous cousins do. I’m happy to have this collection of colorful plants in our little Nature Sanctuary.

Planting for color for all seasons,



26 responses to this post.

  1. Another great post, Steve! I really enjoy seeing all the different plants in your garden. Some years ago, I worked for a nursery and we used to order some plants from a large nursery out there…Means Nursery….ever hear of it? It is neat to see some of these plants that I had read about, actually growing in a garden.

    Your Pieris is stunning…one of my favorites, and I also didn’t realize that the Oregon Grape changed colors by the seasons. Yours is beautiful. And the coral bark Japanese maple? I’ve never heard of it. Is it a new cultivar? Beautiful in a winter garden. I’ve never seen a pygmy cryptomeria. Love the small size and versatility of it. Coin whortleberry is a new one on me too. Are the berries edible?

    Gosh, I could go on and on…you have a wonderful selection of plants in your garden!



    • Wow. Thanks for such an effusive reply Annie. I really like the excitement I hear in your voice! I’ve worked in and with nurseries from CA to OR to WA but haven’t heard of Means. Where is it exactly? I’m in Seattle… I’m glad you like the plants so much. The Sangokaku maple, which means Coral Pillar in Japanese, for the red bark on the new growth, is a pretty old cultivar I think and very popular. You can even get them at the big box store nurseries which is where I got mine, I’m ashamed to say. I say that because I try to go to small local nurseries if I can. But sometimes you have to choose the best plant and that’s what I did. It has received the RHS Award for Garden Merit and grows 25 or 30 feet tall. It turns an amazing golden apricot in the fall. Not sure about the berries on the coin whortleberry either. Haven’t gotten any yet… I understand the feeling of wanting to go on and on about plants. I do it too, obviously… 😉
      Thanks so much for the great comments,



  2. Love this! I can’t wait for spring. Thanks for all of the color! Cheers.



  3. I’ll have to look around for that Japanese Maple…I’m building a path along a shady area and am wanting something different for that spot. The maple sounds like it would work really well.

    I think Means Nursery is in Oregon…real nice people and topnotch plants at that time…probably still are. Our town is lacking in the amount of local nurseries to buy plants from and at one time I worked for a big box in the garden center….me and another lady pretty much were able to run it like it was a small nursery and ordered unusual plants along with the standards. It wasn’t typical of a big box garden center and we had a ball. Then management changed as is often the case with large corporations and wanted to treat the plants as a product like light bulbs! Couldn’t do it, I retired and just work on my own garden now but I have a lot of plants in my garden that I brought home that probably wouldn’t have made it, sometimes much to my better judgement. 🙂 I tend to not be able to tell a plant no!

    I really enjoy reading about your garden and seeing all your beautiful plants. You can tell you put a lot of love into your garden and it comes out in your writing. 🙂



    • Just how shady is that spot? The maple won’t color as well if it doesn’t get much sun is the thing. I have mine in direct sun and it does great here. It depends on your climate a lot. It’ll still grow well but you might not get as full a color range with out much sun… Your adventures in working at the big box store nursery sound cool. I’ve done the same in rescuing stragglers. I know that feeling of working in a nursery and taking home too many plants. I always do that when I work in one. I suspect all plant lovers face this dilemma. I have a hard time saying no myself… 😉 Thanks so much for your kind comments. I do love this little garden a lot and I’m glad it comes thru in my words…



  4. It always amazes me how you fit so many beautiful plants in one space:-)



    • It amazes me too! I have over 200 different plants in my garden and it’s always fun to try to present them in new ways for folks to see and enjoy.
      Thanks for visiting me,



  5. Thanks for sharing another lovely slideshow. You must be one busy guy, keeping up with your garden. You have a very beautiful garden and a lot of knowledge about everything in your garden. I hope you’re having a great day, night or whatever it is, wherever you are.
    Peace and love,
    Wild Thang:)



    • I try to spend time in the garden most every day, even if it’s just to enjoy it and see its changes. I love to garden and have since I was a boy. I even liked yardwork! 😉 Thanks for your good wishes for me. I’m doing good today and hope it continues for awhile. Hope you’re doing well now too!



      • That’s good. Being outside enjoying nature is very healing and peaceful. I love to just sit outside and listen to the birds and all the sounds, watch the squirrels and rabbits and such. I hope you had a nice day. Even though this bronchitis is hanging on, I did actually have a “good” day, for once. I had a productive day and that always makes me happy, as I don’t get too many days like that.
        Have a great day, night or whatever it is, wherever you are. I’m in the U.S.
        Wild Thang 🙂



        • Glad to hear you had a good day. I know how precious those can be. I hope the bronchitis goes away soon. I used to get it a lot as a kid with my asthma and would miss months of school because of it. Kinda funny I turned into a gardener since I’m allergic to pollens and such. But I still love the outdoors in all ways. Hope you’re having a good day today as well. I’m in Seattle BTW… 😉



          • Oh Seattle, you already got your snownomie, didn’t you? I’m pretty sure I heard something about Seattle getting hit. My ex husband lives in Seattle. We’re still friends, so it’s all good. He is the father of my oldest daughter after all. Yeah, it usually takes me 2 or 3 months to get over this crud, then add the asthma to it and I’m just a hot mess!
            That is kinda funny about you being so into gardening when you’ve got asthma and are allergic to pollens and such. I’ve got 4 kids, all with asthma and allergies. They’ve sure kept me on my toes over the years. It’s just a good thing you’re able to do it. I don’t know if I told you or not, but I’m in Kansas. Not having such a good day with these lungs of mine. Sure hope I don’t need to get to the hospital with all that snow out there. I’ve been having a lot of trouble breathing the last few days. Going to have to do a breathing treatment here in a minute. Thank God, I have a nebulizer, that could keep me out of the ER. So, on that note, I hope you are having a good day or I should say night, now.
            Peace out,
            Wild Thang:)



            • We’re supposed to get some snow here this weekend but it won’t be much. Not like you have in Kansas. My mom was born in Dodge City and I still have relatives in several places in KS. I was there when I was 14 but not since then. Haven’t seen that side of the family in years… Sorry to hear your lings are so wonky today. Getting to a doc in this snow is hell I’m sure. I hope you can hold out till you get there and stay OK. Good you have the nebulizer. I used to use those all the time when I was a kid but don’t have to much now, tho I still use my albuterol on occasion. It’s below freezing here today and Cold for us. Big Seahawks parade downtown today. I could care less I’m afraid… I’m not a football fan… 😉
              Hope you’re feeling better soon,
              Peace and love,


            • Hi Steve, I did have another doctor appointment today and she just moved my appointment from 9 a.m till 11 a.m. to give them time to clear the roads. They hadn’t plowed our street yet, and still haven’t, but my hubby stayed home from work today and he has a truck, so he took me. There’s no way I could have gotten out of my driveway, let alone out of the neighborhood to the main streets. The main streets were pretty good. We made it there and back in one piece. He did buy a snow blower to take care of our driveway, so hopefully, I’ll be able to get out tomorrow to get to my primary care doctor about these lungs. I don’t know why they haven’t plowed our street yet. There used to be 3 cops that lived in the same subdivision and when they lived here, let me tell ya, our street, our whole neighborhood was always one of the first to be done. It was always already done by like 6 a.m., but since they don’t live in the neighborhood anymore, it’s a different story. I guess, they had to do it in case the cops needed to get out in an emergency.
              I do like football, but I only watch the Chiefs games, usually. I can say that I HATE the Broncos and really enjoyed watching the Sea Hawks take them down. I was rooting for the Sea Hawks all the way from the beginning. The Broncos got a good, well deserved, ass kickin’. That was really worth watching. Take care, my friend.
              Peace out,
              Wild Thang 🙂


  6. Steve, we usually have to protect them from the afternoon sun down here. I have seen some of the taller varieties planted in almost full sun and they seem to do ok, although if we have a hotter than normal summer, the sun can burn the leaves some and ends up fading the color. And the dwarfs seem to need more protection from the sun than the taller varieties for some reason. The spot where I’m thinking about has morning to fairly early afternoon sun. I think, I hope :), it will give it enough sun for color.



    • What you say makes sense. We’re lucky here that we don’t have such hot sun to burn them. I even have a dissectum in the sun and it does fine. I think you have a great venue for the Sangokaku and it should do well and color up fine for you there. I used to live in central CA and we had to grow these maples in some shade there too and we still got good colors.
      Best of luck to you!



  7. Wonderful winter color. I have a few helleborus, and I love to see them preparing to bloom when everything else is cold and shriveled still.



    • Thank you for your kind words. Hellebore is a beautiful plant. I only have one but it’s put on some seedlings which are white compared to the original plant which is pink so I get two colors at once. I’ll post a pic of them soon. There are a lot of things just starting to come out and become themselves now. Spring is on the way!
      Thanks for visiting me,



  8. Lovely colours, Steve. And glad you wrote to our friend.



  9. Posted by Jackie Saulmon Ramirez on February 14, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    These are beautiful. My mom grew many vegetables and fruits to go with her flowers and Dusty Miller was one. Me, my thumb is as brown as can be but I love looking!



    • Thank you for wandering around my garden as you’ve been doing. You’re always welcome to do so. I’m glad you find these plants beautiful. I love gardening and am very grateful when my garden brings people joy! I got my love of gardening from my Mom, btw. She was wonderful about it and encouraged me all her life…



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