In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
January, 2007
Regional Report

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These Coral Embers willows are spectacular in winter.

Adding Color to the Winter Landscape

It's the beginning of a new year and I refuse to let the winter blahs set in. Like everyone else in the country, I'm making a New Year's resolution to get myself in shape. But I'm going to do it by getting my exercise outdoors. We may feel somewhat captive here in the Midwest with our cold and snow, but that doesn't mean we must remain indoors for the entire winter. Getting outside is good for the body and good for the spirits as well.

As I take my walks around the neighborhood, I keep a small notepad and digital camera to jot down ideas from other landscapes. My camera may fog up a bit when the weather is really cold, but it's great to come back to the cozy warmth indoors to look at the photos of things I see.

One thing I'm particularly taking note of right now is the amazing winter color out there. I walk past my neighbor's house at least once a day through the growing season and have not paid any attention to a stand of Coral Embers willows that grace the entrance to her driveway. They look like tidy small willows all season, nothing spectacular, until the leaves drop and the sun hits their branches. They almost knock you over right now with their brilliant orange stems.

My common witch hazels are blooming right now with their tiny strap-like yellow blossoms, and my 'Jelena' witch hazel will open its copper blossoms in early March. I know that when the vernal witch hazels begin their bloom, winter is essentially over. But meanwhile, it's a thrill to be out in the cold and see something actually blooming! So I make note to add a few more to my landscape, especially up close to the front windows so I can enjoy the blossoms indoors as well as out.

The river birches are at their peak right now with beautifully peeling and curling bark in shades of cinnamon, white, and silver. If you ever have an opportunity to see a lacebark pine, you will be taken aback by the bark's mosaic of moss green, silver white, and smoky gray. For some reason these colors are even more vivid in winter. Again, a note to add a couple to my landscape.

Next, I stroll past a 'Winter King' hawthorn with checkered bark in shades of taupe, amber, and gold; deciduous holly with iridescent crimson berries; and Japanese beautyberry with spiraling strings of lavender pearls visible now that the leaves are gone.

The rugosa roses have shed their leaves to reveal plump Chinese red rose hips. Evergreen bayberries still have leaves, but the waxy berries that are so familiar in candle scents are bright blue-white in contrast to the gray-green foliage. Another beauty I'd not noticed before is the full moon maple (Acer japonicum). I added this to my yard a couple of years ago, and never noticed until recently the beauty of the red branch tips with bright maroon buds. Wow, is this a happy accident!


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