Posted On January 30, 2020 By In Home & Garden, Regulars With 241 Views

WEST COAST GARDENER – Adding Winter Colour with Conifers

by Matt Hall – Red Feather Horticulture

One of the most common design requests by our customers is ensuring that they have colour in their garden over the entire year. Thankfully, we live in a gardening climate where we can have 12 months of flowers. That said, some of the winter-flowering perennials and shrubs can leave a lot to be desired once the weather warms and the rest of the garden catches up. One way that we like to soften this effect is by using evergreens that are vibrantly coloured (or change colour in the cold). Here are a few of our favourite conifers that will be sure to brighten up your winter garden.

Elegant Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica “elegans”). Every year we get a call from someone wondering why their new cryptomeria is dying. It’s easy to think the plant is in dire straits when it goes from lively chartreuse in the summer to a livid rusty-chocolatey-purple once the weather changes. This is completely normal and actually has a tremendous visual effect in the garden (especially in such a large tree). Equally fun is watching it turn green again in the spring (don’t blink or you might miss it). Alternately, “heatherbun” is another cryptomeria with similar colours but stays at only four feet tall.

Icee Blue Juniper (Juniper horizontalis “Monbar”). A great trailing juniper anytime but it excels in the cold when the plant turns a shade of purple. Don’t fret if the thermometer stays above freezing; the cool blue foliage is striking all year long. For a similar colour but more upright shape, try a Blue Star juniper.

Firefly Heather (Calluna vulgaris “Firefly”). When planting for winter interest, it might seem like a bit of a leap to choose a summer-flowering heather over their much cherished winter-flowering cousins. But one look at the fiery brick-red winter foliage of this plant will make anyone stop and stare. It’s no slouch during the rest of the year either as its colour will move through lemon yellow-gold-bronze in the shoulder months.

Sungold Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Sungold”). There aren’t many shrubs as golden as Sungold. They do trend toward green in the late spring and early summer, but the foliage will yellow through the fall. Sungold will grow in part shade but will only reach its resplendent potential in a full sun bed.

Silver Korean Fir (Abes koreana “Silberlocke”).This fir is a terrific addition to any garden where a lighter-coloured evergreen is required. The underside of the needles are silver but they curl up to become the dominant colour giving the entire tree a “frosted” look all through the year. As an added bonus, a silver fir will keep a neat upright form and won’t require much shaping.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list and a deeper dive into any of the genuses listed will be sure to give you many more types to try. To see photographs of the plants listed in the article, head over to the blog on our website ( If you have a winter interest conifer to suggest or if you just need some help in your garden in 2020, please feel free to drop us a line at Good gardening!



Your West Coast Culture. A magazine about the people and places that make the Saanich Peninsula the little piece of paradise we call home.

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