Color is very important in the home landscape. Color always grabs our attention and makes us focus on a single plant or a grouping of plants.
Flowers, berries, fruit and seasonal changes are usually the primary sources of color, but the leaves, stems and trunks of plants can also add color with low maintenance.
Some interesting trunk and bark color can be found in crape myrtles, birch and sycamore. The foliage of plum and Japanese maple adds interest to the landscape with reddish or burgundy color. Use them wisely, though. I have seen them in front of red brick houses and the plant gets lost when looking at the landscape from the street.
There are many colors, shades and tints in shrubs: the dark greens of boxwood, holley, cleyera (slightly reddish), tea olive, pittosporum and camellia. Elaegnus and viburnum provide grayish color as a contrast, and junipers range from dull green to bluish green to gray.
There are a number of variegated foliage plants from which to choose. Plants such as variegated privet, aucuba, euonymus, liriope are useful as accents. Variegated plants should be used with restraint because they are often difficult to harmonize with other foliage. Remember that a little goes a long way.
A tough shrub that is a good source of red color is nandina, especially the dwarf varieties. They turn a nice bronze-reddish color in the fall. Some plants don't turn as much because they don't get enough sunlight.
Winter presents the biggest challenge when we seek color for the landscape. Two good choices are sasanqua camellias and the standard japonica camellias. Sasanquas normally bloom in November and December. Japonica blooms from December through March, depending on the variety. Area garden centers have both plants.
With the expense and time associated with landscape maintenance, it is wise to carefully choose plant material. Try to get some of the needed color from foliage, bark and trunks instead of depending entirely upon maintenance features.
Flowers provide seasonal interest, but good planting design depends upon well-arranged groups of plants with interesting shape, form and texture for year-round attractiveness.
REACH SID MULLIS, THE DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA EXTENSION SERVICE OFFICE FOR RICHMOND COUNTY, AT (706) 821-2349 OR SMULLIS@UGA.EDU.