Landscaping in the Antelope Valley is challenging in many ways. One challenge in planning a good landscape is to think about the way your landscape will look during the winter.
Winter in the Antelope Valley means cold nights and clear bright days. Some days are warm and beautiful, and others are cold and windy. We can enjoy the outdoors during the winter and our landscapes should be attractive and interesting in winter as much as summer. In many parts of the United States during winter you just hide in the house and avoid outdoors as much as possible. Here you can spend as much time outdoors in your landscape as you do in summer when it is very hot.
When many people think of winter color they think of annual or perennial flowers. Winter color consisting of annual flowers includes Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis), Stock (Matthiola incana), Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule), Fairy Primrose (Primula malacoides), English Primrose (Primula polyantha), and the very common Pansy (Viola wittrockiana), the most common winter flower color.
Choosing woody plants that live for many years and provide attractive features in the winter can add to your landscape. Good winter plants fall into three categories. The first category is plants that have winter fruit or berries. The second is plants with leaves or foliage that have good color. The last is plants that have winter flowers. Here are a few of the plants that meet at least one of the categories:
Firethorn is a very popular landscape plant. Firethorns are known for their bright orange or red berries and their very large and painful thorns. Firethorn is related to apples and the berries are not poisonous, but the berries can ferment on the plant and occasionally the birds eat the fermented berries and become drunk, flying into windows or staggering across the yard. Firethorn or commonly called pyracantha on the West Coast has many different species some growing to 15 feet tall and wide and others being smaller. Pyracanthas now come in varieties that can have red, orange or yellow berries.
The toyon grows naturally in the hills of Southern California. In fact, Hollywood was named after the plant. As settlers came to Southern California they noticed plants that looked like holly with the red berries and they named the area Hollywoodland. The Toyon can grow to 35 feet tall and wide, but the newer cultivars usually grow to about 10 feet tall and wide and with a little pruning can be kept to about 6 feet in size. Toyon is a good barrier plant because it has spines on the leaves. This California native plant is drought-tolerant. Toyon is planted for its red berries which can attract birds and for it’s similarities to holly.
Cotoneaster buxifolia (glaucophylla)
The brightbead cotoneaster is a shrub that grows about 3 to 4 feet tall with a spread of about 6 to 8 feet wide. It is used in landscapes mainly because of it’s gray-green foliage and small leaves. The foliage on the plant gives a good color and texture change to the landscape. During the winter it has scarlet colored berries on the plant giving an added touch of color. It is an easy plant to take care of and is drought tolerant.
Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’
The Burford holly is an evergreen shrub that grows to about 6 feet tall. The plant grows slightly narrower than it is tall. The plant is covered with very shiny green leaves with very few spines. Most people plant a holly for two reasons, one the berries and two the spiny leaves. It does not have the typical holly like leaves, but it does produce berries. In fact, the Burford Holly will produce berries without pollination. English hollies require a male plant and a female plant in order to produce berries on the female plant. The Burford Holly needs some protection from the summer sun, so plant it on the east side of the house.
Euonymus fortunei ‘Cvs’
This spreading ground cover is best known for its winter color. Most varieties of winter creeper turn purplish red in cold temperatures. During the warm months it has various leaf colors. The larger varieties can grow to 2 feet tall with vines running about 6 feet. However, if used as a ground cover plant, it every 12 inches. Winter creeper does occasionally grow flowers, but they are small and inconspicuous, however the fruit can be attractive in winter with small berries surrounded by white leaves.
Nandina domestica ‘Cvs.’
Heavenly Bamboo probably better known as Nandina is a very commonly used landscape plant. Sometimes it can be overused in the landscape, however the texture and growth habit makes it a good plant. The Heavenly Bamboo has a lacy texture that can soften the look of walls or other structures. Heavenly Bamboo leaves turn reddish to purplish in cold temperatures. There are many different cultivars (Cvs.) and the size of the plant depends on the cultivar. Depending on the cultivars Heavenly Bamboo ranges in size from 2 feet to 12 feet tall. Heavenly bamboo is not a true bamboo, so it does not have the evasive habit of true Bamboos. However, again depending on the cultivar, some cultivars will spread quickly, but continue to grow in a clump.