Instant winter color

Enjoy a colorful garden in winter

Sharon Cohoon

If you're craving bursts of color in your yard to brighten your spirits on gray, drizzly days, feast your eyes on these.

In the West's mild, low-elevation areas, January isn't too late to tuck in a few primroses, Iceland poppies, or other winter annuals. Small plots beside paths or other highly visible areas are perfect places to put them; even window boxes, containers, and pocket gardens can pack a lot of flower power in no time.

For sunshiny color, fill gaps between existing plants with a few ranunculus and Iceland poppies as shown above, or mass orange Iceland poppies behind blue violas.

For a romantic look, blend together primroses in soft pastel shades, then add a lacy ruff of white sweet alyssum around them as shown at right. Or, nodding to the season, try a snowy white palette by pairing plants such as white fairy primrose (Primula malacoides) with white cyclamen and violas. Where winters are cold, pot up a few primroses to display indoors.

Look for these plants at nurseries this month in sixpacks and 4-inch pots (choose stocky young plants with good leaf color).

In mild climates, you'll also find blooming calendula, cineraria, English daisy, nemesia, pansy, snapdragon, and stock.

In the Northwest, look for English daisy, pansy, and viola.

In the Southwest, heat lovers such as petunia are also blooming now.