Spring and fall usually get all the attention for seasonal color, but even during the shortest winter days, there are plenty of plants that brighten up the Zoo—or your garden. Here are just a few to look for as you enjoy a peaceful (or brisk) walk through the Zoo this winter.
Deciduous Holly (Ilex decidua)Perhaps the most classic and easily identified wintertime shrub, holly is an easy plant to grow and a hard one to kill. Plants can range from three to 15 feet tall, and the orange or red berries provide a stunning splash of color throughout the wintertime. This hearty plant is found in wetlands, sand dunes and grasslands, and is an important food source for numerous species of birds and small mammals. You can find deciduous holly along the path at the Zoo leading up from Glacier Run to the elephant exhibit.
Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) Despite its nickname, Heavenly bamboo is actually a semi-evergreen shrub not unlike the holly in appearance. The plant blooms in midsummer with small white flowers, but it’s the bright red berries that typically persist through the winter that make this an attractive year-long choice for any landscape. Heavenly bamboo is another relatively care-free shrub that grows best in well-drained soil and full to partial sun. Be aware, however, that it is toxic to dogs, cats and horses. At the Zoo, look for this dramatic shrub just behind the Splash Park and across from the guanacos.
Keteleeri Juniper (Juniperus chinesis ‘Keteleeri’)Also known as Chinese juniper, this small, dense evergreen tree tolerates a wide variety of soils and some drought and benefits from full sunlight. It grows slowly in a pyramidal shape, reaching a height of fifteen to twenty feet, and the female produces profuse, grayish-green, berry-like cones. In fall and winter, the Keteleeri displays small bluish fruits that are highly attractive to many birds. The scale-like foliage of this low-maintenance tree stays emerald green throughout the winter. Look for Keteleeri juniper near the Stellar sea eagle exhibit in Glacier Run.