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Evergreens Spruce Up Winter Landscapes
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
This is the time of the year when many landscapes look rather barren and ineffective without evergreens. Even before a hard freeze, the dormant grass and defoliated trees bring a different look to the landscape.
Evergreens, which should serve as our backdrop for annuals and perennials the rest of the year, are important in a good winter landscape. Evergreens include more than just conifers.
Personally, I am passionate about tropicals and lean heavily on perennials and annuals. I've had winter landscapes resemble West Beirut after a confrontation. Hopefully, that was in my past. I have just relocated from Mount Olive and have a new opportunity to get my house in order, if you know what I mean.
I need more evergreens like hollies, camellias, junipers and cleyera. The Oregon grape, or mahonia, is a fantastic winter garden accent. We need to take a survey around the home to see if we have relied too heavily on deciduous or herbaceous plants that are ineffective in the winter.
The prettiest landscapes are those that have some green grass growing now. That needs to be done in September or October by planting rye grass, but the warm November temperatures may have helped later crops.
If you choose not to over-seed your lawn with rye for the winter then having areas with a green ground cover can make your landscape look good even though your grass is brown.
We tend to think about ground covers for areas where grass won't grow or to have something growing on steep slopes. But sometimes we forget about the artistic or aesthetic uses of ground covers.
A bold sweeping bed of neatly planted Asian jasmine next to a dormant or over-seeded turf area is very pretty. Ground covers add a finished, professional look to a landscape. Just like turf or any other landscape shrub, they give that feeling of green lushness yet tend to be much easier to maintain and keep watered.
A well-chosen ground cover can provide year-round color or added leaf-texture. It will spread by itself, have a compact growth habit and be dense enough to keep out weeds.
Mississippians can choose from a huge selection of ground covers, not just Asian jasmine. Ivies, vincas and ajugas are great, as are the ground-cover junipers. Mondo grass and liriope are great when mass planted.
The creeping phlox, Phlox subulata, is great for bloom and groundcover foliage. We definitely can still have our winter flowers, too. Those beds where we had summer annuals need to be filled with pansies, violas, ornamental kale and cabbage, and snapdragons.
We need to have other plants that are known for winter color like the nandina, or pyracantha with their bright red berries. We also can use trees with beautiful bark like the Natchez crepe myrtle or Heritage River Birch.
The best part of the story is that if our yards look dreary now, we can still get our landscape going and do so without dripping in sweat from the summer heat and humidity. You'll love it and your newly planted trees and shrubs will like it, too!