Green Thumb: Planning now for spring color
by Sue Davis
Jan 02, 2014 | 1519 views | 0 0 comments | 226 226 recommendations | email to a friend | print

When the days — and nights — are cold, I like to sit inside with a warm beverage and my garden books, planning for the year to come. This year, I’m thinking about adding color with foliage, as well as flowers, to brighten the landscape.

Although spring explodes with change, the early months may offer little color. Gardens planted with certain deciduous trees and shrubs leaf out with vividly colored new growth and can present great swaths of color. Among the plants you might enjoy are purple hopseed bush (Dodonaea viscosa “Purpurea”), silver dollar tree (Eucalyptus cinerea), and forest flame lily of the valley (Pieris x “Forest Flame”).

Summer heat can be oppressive and wilt even the hardiest flowers, leaving your garden a monochromatic green. Brightly colored Tropicanna canna (Canna indica “Phasion”), golden spirit smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria “Ancot”) and Limemound spiraea (Spiraea x bumalda “Monhub”) are among a variety of plants with the potential to spice up your outdoor living.

Fall foliage, too, has beautiful possibilities. Because we don’t usually have a deep freeze during the winter, planting generously with species that produce the most reliable hues without a long, dependable freeze is the best way to give your garden a spectacular fall appearance. Some plants to consider are dwarf burning bush (Euonymus alatus “‘Compactus”), stonecrop (Sedum “Autumn Joy”) and Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis).

Winter will be lovely next year with a little color outside my window. You might want to try planting a few Sunny Delight boxleaf euonymus (Euonymus japonicus var. microphyllus “Moncliff”) or compact nandina (Nandina domestica “Compacta”) where you can see them out a window or driving up to your home. Although the color in these plants is more modest than some of the others, they will certainly add cheer during the dreary days of winter.

As always, check the sunlight, water and care requirements of new plants, along with their expected mature height and width, so you can select the perfect plant for each spot in your garden.

Happy gardening.

• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s master gardeners. University of California certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or


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