Arum (Special to the Langley Advance)

GREEN THUMB: Tips for adding some colour to a winter garden

Ponder winter pansies and ornamental kale.

By Pam Erikson

Special to the Langley Advance

As we move into October, we realize that we are rapidly approaching the winter season – a season where most people think that the gardens go to sleep and we have that long wait until spring before we can see some colour.

Not true – there are a multitude of plants that can brighten up those grey and dreary winter days.

First, at this point, you should have either planted or be preparing to plant your spring bulbs – getting them in the ground before we get a hard frost is always best.

Planning ahead in any garden is always the most ideal way to see year-round colour.

As I look around the garden now, certain plants just shine in the fall – a perfect example being the Clematis Sweet Autumn, with its masses of tiny white flowers – an absolute show stopper.

The fall grasses are getting their seed heads and will look spectacular almost until Christmas, when the stems can be cut to be used in arrangements.

A particular favourite of ours is the Miscanthus robsilber, with its deep burgundy plumes.

Also great colour in the fall and winter is the tree Acer griseum (paperbark maple). When the sun hits the peeling bark it illuminates the deep copper and red/orange hues on its phenomenal bark.

The colour stays in the bark year-round but is particularly glowing in the winter – probably because the bark is so much more visible when the leaves have dropped off.

Just coming to life in our beds now are the Arum italicum, which I mentioned last time.

The bright orange seed heads are disappearing and allowing the green foliage to emerge.

This deep and shiny foliage is hands down the best perennial for the winter; very hosta-like in appearance, but loves the cold and will be in full leaf from mid-October through to mid-March.

Another colourful shrub just completing its cycle is the Callicarpa (also known as beautyberry).

This deciduous shrub is quite pleasant during the spring and summer, but a total eye-catcher in the fall with her bright violet purple berries.

As we move deeper into the cold weather, the Hamamelis (witch hazel) with her bright yellow flowers and the Viburnum bodnantense Dawn, with her heavily perfumed pink blooms, become the stars of our winter garden.

We also have the Arum growing beneath these trees, so one would never guess it was winter if you saw the combination.

Winter pansies and ornamental kale are also wonderful additions to the winter garden, but do consider planting some trees that will give structure and interest all year round.

And before you know it, the new year will be here and the Hellebores will start popping their heads up with January colour.

Never a dull moment in a Lower Mainland garden!


– Pam Erikson is owner of Erikson’s Daylily Gardens and Perennials in Langley,

and president of the Langley Garden Club.

Send questions to Pam c/o


Arum (Special to the Langley Advance)

Callicarpa (Special to the Langley Advance)

Hamamelis (witch hazel) with its bright yellow flowers. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Miscanthus robsilber, with its deep burgundy plumes. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Viburnum bodnantense Dawn, with its heavily perfumed pink blooms. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Acer griseum, otherwise know as paperbark maple, offers great colour and texture to a garden. (Special to the Langley Advance)

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