Keeping it green year-round
This article was published in the Las Cruces Bulletin on January 22, 2016
Euonymus plants keep their color year round.
I know most of you are not thinking of gardening at this time of year. The Organ Mountains may have one or two more dustings of what appears to be confectioners’ sugar yet to come. The nights are still freezing even though the balmy rays of the sun make it feel like spring is not far away. Some landscapes mainly made up of deciduous trees and shrubs may seem a bit bleak. If this is the case in your yard then this is the time to seek out some new greenery to help liven up your surroundings.
There are dozens of plants that will keep most or all of their leaves even during our coldest winter months. The term “evergreen” is not just for the well known arborvitae anymore. There are trees such as Live Oak or Magnolia that keep happy green appearances during this time of year. Broadleaf evergreens such as Euonymus are available in various shapes and sizes, with colors that stay the same all year long to those that “flush” to deep reds and purples with the onset of cold temps. The Heavenly Bamboo is an old time favorite that also blushes in various shades of red, orange, burgundy and hues in between. Indian Hawthorne, Viburnum and Rosemary will keep their leaves on and typically are one of the first plants to bloom pink to white flowers in early spring, “blue flowers for the Rosemary.” Pittosporum, Boxwood, Wax Leaf Privet and Choysia, are available in solid green and variegated forms. Holly, Yaupon Holly, Pyracantha, and Nandina develop red berries which add winter interest as well as cover and food for birds. The Shiny Xylosma keeps its leaves during the winter months and as the name suggests has very beautiful shiny leaves all year round. The Strawberry Bush has an interesting reddish brown bark and has creamy white upside-down-bell-looking flowers followed by a round red fruit that resembles, again as the name suggests, a strawberry.
Ground cover such as ice plant, carpet rosemary, Japanese Dwarf Juniper, Blue Rug Juniper, and some varieties of sedum will keep their leaves during this time of year as well.
Of course there are the typical selections such as Arizona or Italian Cypress, Juniper, and Arborvitae that we all know as evergreens. These typically need larger areas and can be used as wind breaks, living hedges or to help soften city life noise. Plant these with caution as their ultimate size may be more of a maintenance issue in the long run.
If you are landscaping now, make sure all of these beauties have already been acclimated to the frigid temps January and February have to offer. Use root stimulator and soil amendments. You should only have to water every 10 to 14 days or so while the nighttime temps are dipping below the freezing mark.
Winter does not have to look so barren and dry. With some careful thought and planning your landscape can have almost as much enchantment in the winter as it does in the summer.