Get the Most out of Your Garden Year Round With Seasonal Planting
Designing a garden that delights in every season is both challenging and highly rewarding. Using color, scent, shape and form, you can keep interest going for all 365 days.
Spring brings welcome color and energy after the gloom of winter. Early flowerers have high impact, with brilliant displays from cherries, magnolias, rhododendrons, shadbush (also, serviceberry) and viburnums. Flower bulbs reflect the seasons' vibrant spirit in blue (anemone, grape hyacinths), yellow (daffodils), purple (crocus) and a variety of other colors (tulips). For more subtle effect, choose softer colored spring-flowering shrubs and plants, such as barrenwort, missionbells, hellebores and primulas. While all spring bulbs have a white selection to balance a colorful display, consider simply enjoying the exuberant vivid nature of the season - just remember to plant your bulbs in the fall or you'll miss the show.
Plants and bulbs that thrive beneath trees make use of available light and moisture by flowering before the leaves appear (image 1).
Yellow daffodils and pink magnolia capture the freshness of spring. For naturalistic drifts, throw handfuls of bulbs across the ground and plant them where they land (image 2).
The majority of plants come into flower in summertime. This natural abundance offers a huge choice of colors, heights and shapes, which makes designing for the season relatively easy. Check flowering times and choose a wide range of plants to stretch the display for the duration. Select perennials with beautiful foliage, so that they continue to contribute to the overall effect long after their blooms have fallen, and set out each type of plant in bold groups of at least three. To add to the richness, dot summer-flowering bulbs, such as alliums, gladiolas, lilies and tripletlilies, throughout the border. Keep the display fresh by removing spent flowers and brown or damaged leaves.
A “hot border” of sizzling hues creates a unified display (image 1).
In sheltered gardens, many half-hardy and tender plants, such as dahlias and Canna lilies, will continue to flower until the first frosts. Hardy perennials, such as asters, monkshood and baneberry (also, bugbane), flower very late, too, and together with forms of hardy fuchsia, make good companions for a range of shrubs with fiery autumn leaves. Several summer-flowering perennials, including some peonies and hostas, provide a brief season of fall leaf color, but the main stars are the trees and shrubs, such as acer, dogwood, sumac and some barberries, cotoneasters and viburnums.
When fading perennials meet emerging fall foliage, magic ensues (image 1).
This border sets the stage for the magnificent beech wood behind, but the fiery fall colors of smokebush, prunus and grasses draw eyes to the foreground (image 2).
Winter doesn't seem so barren when your plantings provide color and interest. Winter-flowering honeysuckle, witchalder, witch-hazel, Oregon grape holly, sweet box and viburnum offer flowers and scent, and the berries or catkins of hazels, cotoneaster, hawthorn, silktassel and mountain ash add color and texture. Evergreens and their variegated forms deliver winter foliage, while the bare bones of dormant perennials, such as black-eyed-susans and stonecrops, and the stems of grasses, such as Japanese silver grass (also, maiden grass), all add to the beauty of the winter garden. Trees also make stunning contributions to a wintry scene: birches with their stark white trunks; the twisted silhouette of contorted European filberts; and the flowers of the autumn flowering Higan cherry.
An underplanting of snowdrops makes the dark base of dogwood shrubs sparkle (image 1).
One Garden, Four Seasons
By underplanting a wide range of shrubs and perennials with naturalized spring bulbs you can achieve year-round interest without the need for bedding plants. The unsung heroes of winter are deciduous trees — without the distraction of foliage you can better appreciate their attractive bark and shapely forms.
Spring (image 1), summer (image 2), fall (image 3) and winter (image 4)