flower garden seat

PLANTING FOR YEAR-ROUND COLOR

We all love the abundance of flowers in the spring and summer — after sometimes long and dreary winters, it does a heart good to see such vibrant colors in our gardens, right? Even the fall has its share of harvest hues, but often when cooler seasons hit, our gardens are often left with nothing. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way at all! Depending upon where you live, you might not be able to enjoy actual flowers in the winter months, but that doesn’t mean settling for no color at all.

As a landscape designer, one of my jobs is to ensure that my clients’ gardens have year-round interest, even if there are no flowers. So let’s look at some creative ways to add plants for year-round color, looking at every part of the plant itself.

Leaves: Leaves are an often-forgotten garden feature, but they really shouldn’t be. Look for plants with leaves that are anything but medium green — chartreuse, maroon, red, purple, or variegated with green and white. In my yoga deck garden, I got excited and planted too many things with medium green leaves — the sizes and textures were all amazing, but the color is too monotonous. So I’ve spent the last year slowly adding in dark-leafed cannas and bright green abelias and oh! What a difference it makes.

Bark & Stems: Even if there’s not a flower or leaf to be found, interesting bark and colorful stems go a long way to adding interest in the garden. Some barks are papery, while others are smooth or have rough textures. And the stems! Plants like red twig dogwood with their flaming branches, then stand back and behold the drama that unfolds.

Evergreens: Evergreens are plants that are green all year long, no matter the weather — they do not “drop” their leaves in the winter. Many shrubs and trees are evergreens, for example, and provide great structure in the garden. They may not be the shining stars in the garden from season to season, but they offer up the steady and consistent green backdrop. Think pines, boxwoods, loropetalums, yaupons — do a search on “evergreen plants for (your city)” and see what comes up, or ask your local garden center for recommendations.

Flowers: If you live in a milder zone and can actually have some flowering plants all year long, make a list of those that are recommended for your area and then study the times of year that they will bloom. It’s tempting to add in all the spring-flowering bulbs and perennials, but you’ll be happy later in the season if you pay attention to bloom times when you are planting.

In my garden: I have roses and wildflowers in the spring, salvias and coreopsis in the summer, more salvias and sages in the fall, and ornamental grasses in the winter. In every season, I have annuals in some pots and some in the ground, and evergreen trees and shrubs.

About the Author:

Jenny Peterson

Jenny Peterson is a landscape designer and urban farmer living in Austin, Texas. She comes from a family of gardeners and her gardens include drought-tolerant plants, herbs, veggies, and a wildflower pollinator garden. As a breast cancer survivor, Jenny specializes in gardens that heal from the inside out.

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