form and foliage

Year round garden interest with minimal care

Winter Finery – Bright Spots on Dull Days



Colors pop in the low light and overcast skies of winter days.

We love the soft light of winter and how it shows almost everything to advantage. In the shot above, conifers, yucca and the lingering leaves of a mix of deciduous trees illuminate the landscape. It put us in a party mood, so we thought we’d check out what’s being worn this season.


Juniperus cedrus foliage has a distinctly two-toned tweedy look.

Tweeds are always a favorite in the winter months, and Canary Islands juniper wears a blue-green version, with a double-white stomatal band which acts like flecks of white on the darker cloth. If you suspect hyperbole, compare to the ‘real’ thing:


Harris tweed

The subdued, workmanlike tweed needs a bit of livening up, so we looked for something peppier to pair it with. Perhaps the tapestry of winter-tinged leaves of Hydrangea quercifolia? The oak-leaf hydrangea is the only member of its clan that can take full sun and doesn’t require a lot of water, making it suitable for drought-tolerant gardens. We think that the winter foliage beats the summer bloom:


Hydrangea quercifolia (oak leaf hydrangea) in winter.

Is nature imitating art or is art imitating nature?


Damask upholstery fabric

What accessorizes the garden’s tweeds and damasks? A winning strategy is to seek contrasts of color, form and texture. A shiny patent leather would work well with the soft, light-absorbing fabrics.


Coprosma repens ‘Plum Hussey’

The shiny purple-burgundy foliage of the mirror plant, Coprosma, would certainly do the job. ‘Red Jewel’ barberry’s brighter, glossy foliage also caught our eye:


Berberis x media ‘Red Jewel’

Decisions, decisions!


What to wear?

While we’re enjoying the finery, we thought we’d do our hair. Banksia spinulosa ‘Schnapper Point’, or koala blooms banksia, has candle-like (or curler-like!) blossoms that stick out through the foliage. This year it was extremely floriferous so we can cover ourselves in curls.


Banksia spinulosa ‘Schnapper Point’. Loofahs? Curlers?


We’re going for a pre-Raphaelite look.

So what about jewels? We found that Ilex x attenuata ‘Longwood Gold’ has lovely orange beadlike berries. This natural hybrid of two native North American hollies is rarely seen in cultivation and we don’t know why. It makes a perfect pairing with orange libertia.


Perfect pair: Ilex ‘Longwood Gold’ and Libertia peregrinans.

Now we just have to collect and string the beads:


Beads or holly berries?

Now that we’re all dressed, a bit of cosmetic enhancement is in order. Lipstick, nail polish and blush, in the wintery shade of brilliant red.


Leucadendron ‘Jester’ wears scarlet-tipped fingers.


No gardener has hands like this, however.

And now, the finishing touch. We’re completing our outfit with a fan. We just have to choose which one. This Brahea armata is simply loaded with them.


Mexican blue palm (Brahea armata) is loaded with fan-shaped fronds.

Here’s the one that we finally chose:


Understated but elegant.

Now there is nothing left to do but to wait for Prince Charming. It may be a long wait. The coach is simply not materializing.


Still looks like a pumpkin…

What kind of finery do you have in your winter garden?



10 thoughts on “Winter Finery – Bright Spots on Dull Days

  1. I certainly enjoyed your post, photos and the association with fashion. Very unique and clever.

  2. Great imagination and beautiful colors!

  3. Always great photos and comments. Happy New Year!

  4. Thanks and same to you!
    Jan and Sara

  5. Very festive and fun, indeed! Happy New Year!

  6. Ho ho ho, you have had some FUN with this one! Love the luscious comparisons. Happy New YEAR!!

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