Garden Planning for All Seasons
Creating a spectacular garden design that looks beautiful and healthy throughout the year requires careful planning. Find inspiration and ideas by visiting open gardens at different times of the year, note the plants that are looking their best, and add these to your displays. Learn more about how the seasons will affect your garden with this seasonal guide.
Many herbaceous perennials are beneath the soil at this time of year, but those with sturdy stems and enduring seedheads make decorative displays when married with grasses and evergreens. Colorful dogwoods (Cornus) also come into their own in the winter with their scarlet or bright yellow trunks, while white birches (Betula), golden bamboos, and the red trunks of Prunus serrula are picked out by the sloping rays of the winter sun. A few shrubs dare to bloom, including Mahonia japonica, witch hazels (Hamamelis), and scented winter box (Sarcococca). Conifers add evergreen interest with blue-, and gold-leaf types injecting extra color.
Heralding the start of the growing season, spring arrives with a burst of color as the sun warms the soil and buds unfurl. Delicate blossoms adorn tree branches like bolts of lace, while a few shrubs beneath their canopies also put on an early show. Magnolias are the queens of the spring garden, their beautiful flowers striking a pose against the graceful stems. Perennials are also starting to show their faces in the spring with a range of beautiful hellebores and also dainty bleeding hearts (Dicentra) leading the way.
Long, sun-drenched days epitomize early summer when the garden is in full swing with plants vying for attention at every turn. The choice is vast, but remember that too many contrasting plants can look messy. Include a few attractive foliage subjects to offset perennials and flowering shrubs. Trees perform a similar function and also help to regulate temperature fluctuations in the garden. As summer draws on, beds and borders may look past their prime, so include asters, rudbeckias, crocosmias and decorative grasses that flower as the season comes to a close.
It’s easy to forget about fall when you’re planting a border in the spring, but this can be a dramatic season with flaming red and orange foliage firing up the proceedings and branches laden with shimmering fruits. Trees and shrubs valued for their fall tints and berries include maples, cherries, crabapples, Sorbus, Cotoneaster, Cotinus, and Viburnum opulus. The violet beadlike berries of Callicarpa bodinieri are also well worth including. Some flowers, such as Verbena bonariensis, asters, and Abelia, continue to bloom as temperatures plunge, while hydrangeas, sedums, and the grasses that bloomed earlier have ornamental seedheads, many of which will persist into the winter. Include some fall-flowering bulbs, such as nerines and crocuses, at the front of a sheltered sunny border.