Plants That Brighten Those Dreary Days

Plants That Brighten Those Dreary Days

I live on the Canadian prairies because I choose to, and one of the real benefits of prairie living is our BIG GIANT BEAUTIFUL sky! Our early morning warm sunrises and long warm, summer evenings are just superb for enjoying our gardens (private or public).

However, we do have those ‘dreary days’ to contend with from time to time. Recent summers have provided periods of low lying ‘grey day’ cloud covers that you can almost feel bearing down on you and rains that drive us indoors. And of course, we can’t forget about winter and how important it is to plan something into our gardens to make the winter scene not just bearable, but actually enjoyable.

So, how do our garden designs and plant choices play into this? How can we select plants and design our garden spaces to make the best of the inevitable dreary days, summer or winter? Read on…

For the warm months, plan your outdoor living space so that you can actually walk out and experience being in your yard and UP CLOSE to your treasured plants regardless of whether it’s raining or not. Can you get to most points of your property without having to soak your feet? Well placed paths (stepping stones), pea-gravel mini paths and of course a good central deck or patio are key to allowing you outside regardless of the weather.

Have you planted shrubs, trees, perennials and evergreens that provide the right overall foliage colour that can literally “brighten” up a dark day, so that whether you’re ‘viewing your yard from inside or out, there is the eye-attracting lure of something bright and cheerful that can act like a beacon on dark, wet days?

Shrubs with strong silver tones are best at this: Ivory Halo® Dogwood, Hostas with strong white variegation, Siberian Variegated Dogwood & Nishiki Willow. Gold toned shrubs work well too: Golden Variegated Dogwood, Golden Mockorange, Morden Golden Glow Elder & Dart's Gold Ninebark. Silvery-blue toned plants that offer cheerful brightening are: Mongolian Silver Spires Caragana, Blue Fescue Grass, Blue Oat Grass, Dwarf Arctic Willow.

Lightly colored trees that brighten up darker periods are: Silver Russianolive, Silver Maple & Tower Poplar. For evergreens, look at taller Junipers like Medora, Witchita Blue & Blue Arrow. Spreading varieties like Gold Coast, Ice Blue, Blue Chip & Blue Star work well too.

Now, turning to winter which can serve up a gardener with 4-6 months of “dreariness” in terms of weather, here are some sure-fire plant choices that when used in a visible part of the landscape (really think hard about your views from indoors here). For bark color, consider Birch trees (all varieties), red or gold stemmed Dogwoods, golden peeling trunks of Goldspur Amur Cherry. Try to pair the trees mentioned here with evergreens such as Baby Blue Spruce, Scot’s Pine or a majestic upright blue Juniper.

Traditional Exterior by Hershey Photographers Amy Renea

Plants that hold fruit into winter are especially useful. Starlite Rosybloom Flowering Crabapple will hold on to thousands of small, berry-sized apples all winter long. Cardinal Royal and Showy Mountain ashes are excellent choices too. Not only will you be rewarded with winter color, the fruits will attract singing birds during those bleak months.

Where I live, in Winnipeg, our snow cover is permanent for at least 125 days. A winter walk in your garden on the milder winter days is possible too (and so pleasurable), if you maintain a small network of shoveled pathways in your garden. I do this every year, and it keeps you closer to your yard and it’s amazing what wildlife is present too!

Some plants are great at attracting hoar frost on those winter days at the beginning and end of winter that it occurs. The king of plants for this magical garden effect is Karl Foerster’s Feather Reed Grass. Plant these in areas where you can view them from indoors, and be sure NOT to cut them back in fall – an amazing winter interest plant!

So, with a bit of careful selecting, talk to your favorite garden centre folks and let them know that you’d like to bring a little bit of “dreary day busting” plants into your yard. 

Happy Gardening!

For more ideas ask your local garden center professionals and make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest for other help tips and hints.


Guest post by Jan - Bylands Account Representative

I’m very proud of my 4 children.  All 4 of them, worked many summers in the garden centre, they love plants and gardening too – but opted for totally different careers.  Jan loves living in Winnipeg and adds extensive plant knowledge to our team at Bylands.  You can sometimes find Jan as a guest on ‘The Gardener’, a radio program in Winnipeg on Sundays. 

Photo Credit via Houzz