Winter is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. The magnolia (below) blooms from spring to fall, while the golden fruit of the pomegranate (left) is a plus in any garden.

The Winter Garden

Winter is a contemplative time for gardeners. There is not a great deal required of us from the garden, so we can pick and choose our tasks, meting them out over the next two months on a gentle and manageable schedule. If you are just planning your garden, consider a combination of evergreen and deciduous plants, which allows for movement and change in the natural structure and form of the landscape. What follows are a few of my favorite winter-garden choices.

EVERGREEN

Boxwood is a standard, simple hedge shrub known for its cooperative nature in box trimming, but if allowed free growth, it makes an extraordinarily lovely medium-height soft planting.

Cleyera has attractive dark, glossy-green foliage with pink and yellow new growth.

Holly, which is a huge family of plants with tree and shrub forms all its own, provides added interest with autumn fruit.

Indian hawthorn comes in tall, medium, and dwarf varieties with pink or white blooms in spring.

Junipers are available in 50 to 60 species in blues, silvers, and greens. They also come in tree, shrub, and ground cover species.

From giant Southern varieties to petite Little Gems, magnolias are classics that offer elegant forms and foliage with amazing blooms.

Of pines, Austrian and Japanese varieties are best for Dallas conditions.

Pittosporum comes in dark green or celadon variegated varieties in shrub and dwarf sizes. In spring, it has fragrant white blossoms.

Sweet olives are tall shrubs with dark green foliage and extraordinarily fragrant tiny white blooms in fall and spring.

DECIDUOUS

THE NUMBERS

JANUARY
Average high: 54
Average low: 34
Average rainfall: 1.90 in.

FEBRUARY
Average high: 60
Average low: 39
Average rainfall: 2.37 in.

In addition to the fantastic sculptural forms crape myrtles provide when bare, there are also shrub forms and very low-growing weeping varieties to adorn the garden.

Forsythia has beautiful arching branches of bright yellow blooms in early spring. 

Varieties of fruit trees "crabapple, pear, plum, fig, peach" all have wonderful fall shades and unbeatable spring flowers and fruit.

Hydrangeas come in the familiar macrophylla with its large, rounded pink and blue flower heads or in the sturdier oak leaf with limited bloom shades but more sun tolerance and fall interest.

Japanese maples are available in a huge range of leaf forms, colors, and heights; some have vivid bark colors in winter.

Japonica, also called flowering quince, never fails to surprise and delight when it is the first shrub to bloom in late winter or early spring.

Pomegranate has delightful bright green foliage that accompanies fruit bearing or fruitless varieties.

Roses are generally thought of as specimen plants, but the hedge varieties offer great potential as landscape anchors.

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LESS IS MORE

Xeriscape gardeners, the growers who use native, adapted, and drought-tolerant plants to conserve water and protect the environment, are finally getting their due. The City of Dallas Water Utilities conservation division is accepting applications for the 2006 XERISCAPE LANDSCAPE RECOGNITION AWARD, which honors excellence in residential or commercial Xeriscaping. Nominations will be accepted through April 14, with winners announced in May and culminating in a Xeriscape Tour of Homes on June 3. To get an entry form or learn more about Xeriscaping, go to www.savedallaswater.com or call the water conservation hotline at 214-670-3155.

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WINTER CHECKLIST

Don’t forget to water if there’s been little rain.
Turn compost periodically.
Bare-root roses are available now. Plant them through mid-February.
* This is great time to plant trees and shrubs.
Prune fruit, nut, landscape, and summer flowering trees.
Remove debris from flowerbeds.
* Apply dormant oil on your fruit and landscape trees on a day when it will be higher than 40 degrees all day.
Plan your garden now. If you want to grow from seeds, remember seed packets often contain 100 seeds or more. That is the equivalent to five flats of plants per packet of seeds. Don’t over-order.
* If you are considering hiring a landscape professional now is a good time to call. They become quite busy in the spring.
Prune roses, except for climbing roses, which bloom on second year wood.