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Gardening for year-round interest

November 13, 2017 | By | Reply More

Gardening for year-round interest

Gro-low sumac along the fence

People who know I’m a gardener are usually surprised when they find out that autumn, not summer, is my favorite season. Sure, spring brings new life and summer brings an embarrassment of riches with both food and vibrant color. But fall…the air is clean and crisp and the sometimes gaudy colors of summer give way to warm reds, oranges and yellows at every turn. It’s not just the trees in my yard – the beauty also comes from the many perennials and shrubs I’ve planted.

Planning a garden for year-round interest requires planning and forethought. It means looking beyond just flowers and understanding which plants offer showy foliage and interesting texture in the garden.

Look past flowers in bloom, see beauty even in falling leaves and appreciate the visual interest of plants that have given their all and have earned much-needed rest.

Tips for garden beauty year-round

  • gardening for year-round interest

    Early spring allium

    Plant a mix of spring and summer bloomers in the garden. Plan the placement of your plants so your eyes have something to look at all the time.

  • Visit your garden center at different times of the year. You’ll get inspiration and ideas for what to plant for color and interest in every season.
  • Consider all the plants’ attributes – flowers, new foliage, mature foliage, any fruit and even the twigs and bark can add to the visual appeal.
  • Don’t forget evergreen shrubs and small trees. They provide structure and a place for eyes to rest when there’s a lot going on in the garden.

Plants for year-round garden interest

  • Forsythia – These unassuming shrubs shout “Spring is HERE!” They are among the first shrubs to bloom in early spring sending vibrant sprays of yellow flowers in all directions. Do not, for the love of all that is good, prune forsythia into the shape of a meatball. Their beauty is in their arching habit, and when you prune into a formal shape at the wrong time, you will sacrifice their spring flowers.
  • Allium – There are many varieties of allium, all of them cool. Plant the bulbs in fall and wait for the fireworks in early spring.
  • gardening for year-round interest

    Toad lilies make nice cut flowers, too.

    Agastache – These easy grow plants put on a show all summer, and they are a magnet for butterflies and pollinators. My new favorite variety is Ava (I order them here) with its masses of hot pink flowers atop tall stems. They begin blooming in summer, lighting up the garden. In fall, the flowers’ calyxes stay pink until hard frost providing needed color in the fall garden.

  • American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) – These shrubs have a graceful, arching habit and vibrant green leaves in spring. Tiny white flowers provide food for pollinators and give way to masses of vibrant, lavender berries that persist well past first frost.
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier) – Garden centers sell these either as small trees or multi-stemmed shrubs. In spring, they are covered in delicate white flowers that provide much-needed food for early foraging honeybees. Then, you’ll be treated with pinkish berries that birds go nuts for. The show continues into fall with warm orange-red leaves that persist.
  • Dahlias – If you can plant tubers in spring and provide sturdy support, you can grow exotic dahlias. There are hundreds of varieties in every color imaginable. They begin blooming in mid-summer and don’t stop until they are killed by hard frost. Thrifty gardeners can dig up the tubers, store them and plant again the following year. Dahlias also make the best cut flower bouquets.
  • Goldenrod (Solidago) – These assertive plants get a bad rap, but they are gorgeous in fall and honeybees love them. Once they are done blooming, leave the tall plants up through winter as the spent flowers are lovely coated in a light frost.
  • Spirea (Ogon) ‘mellow yellow’ – These easy care shrubs display sprays of white flowers very early in spring. A heavy pruning after bloom doesn’t slow them down – summer brings masses of golden textural foliage that gradually turns orange in fall.
  • Ninebark – One of my all-time favorite shrubs, the new foliage in spring begins as yellow, but quickly turns a dark plum color, almost black. Pink flowers soon follow. If you leave the flowers, you’ll then be rewarded with dark red seedheads against those dark leaves. Foliage turns burnt orange in fall, and once the leaves fall, even the bark is interesting in winter with a shredded appearance.
  • Ornamental grasses – Grasses provide interesting texture year-round and some, in fall, boast dramatic plumes that sway in the breeze. Leave the dried grasses standing through winter – they are shelter for birds and small wildlife.
  • gardening for year-round interest

    American beautyberry

    Toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) – I have a history with this one. In the spring and summer, the plants have unassuming foliage, but in fall, the long stems are loaded with little exotic, spotted lilies that deserve a place in the garden where you can appreciate the flowers up close.

  • Sumac (Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-low’) – My favorite ground cover for sunny spots ever, a single shrub sneds out runners and spreads to more than 7 feet when the plant is happy. Gro-low sumac creates a dense, foot-tall carpet of glossy green foliage in summer. In fall, it really shines when the foliage turns vibrant orange and red.

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Category: Flowers, General, Home and Garden

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