While most plants have given way to the snow, ice and freezing temperatures so typical of our Indiana winters, there are some that continue to look beautiful, nasty weather notwithstanding. Coniferous and broadleaf evergreens are a given, of course, but there is also a wealth of plants out there whose colorful foliage, interesting bark, or pleasing shapes are just the ticket on a cold, gray, February day. Here are just a few of my favorites:
The assertive, golden starbursts of Yucca ‘Color Guard’ look just as good in January as in June. A variegated form of a southeastern United States native, this architectural personality thrives in full sun and scoffs at heat and drought. It looks smashing in combination with evergreens and grasses in winter, and makes a great companion to all sorts of warm-weather perennials. Try it with Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’ and dark-leaved sedums for a truly electrifying summer display.
Red-twig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) ‘Midwinter Fire’ seems pretty ho-hum in summer, but its green leaves drop in autumn to reveal a blaze of twigs that fade from golden-orange bases to vivid, scarlet tips. Similar in appearance is the taller Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’, whose bright, coral-red stems seem to glow in winter. It is set off to great advantage against our limestone sculptures, as seen here:
Both these shrubs appreciate full sun and regular moisture, and spread slowly via stolons. Brightest bark color occurs on young wood, so I prune about 1/3 of the twigs to the ground in spring each year to ensure a good flush of new growth for the following season.
Sedum ‘Angelina’ has received a lot of press in recent years, but despite its trendiness, I must confess that I am in love with this carefree little succulent. Always beautiful and never ugly, it forms a politely spreading mat of brilliant, green-gold foliage, and looks excellent spilling over the edges of containers or retaining walls. The plant is easily divided by simply digging up a chunk and planting it shallowly in its new location. Winter doesn’t detract from its looks, and actually brings blushes of bronze and orange to the tips of the foliage. Here it is, smiling happily through the snow in one of our punishing parking lot islands: