On the Garden Path-Plan your plantings for all-season beauty
Year-round garden beauty takes a little planning and effort.
BORDER BEAUTY: The Missouri Botanical Garden often plants grasses in their mixed perennial borders to give long-season appeal.
Many people think season-long garden beauty is an impossible dream. In reality, it’s not impossible at all. It just takes planning and effort.
We’ve all heard so much complaining about our climate here in the central United States that we expect disappointment from the outset of our gardening careers. “Nothing,” you say with a sigh as you sit in the air-conditioned comfort of your living room, fanning yourself with your favorite issue of CAPPER’S, “could tolerate this heat.” And your gardening friends agree. The fuchsias, nemisias and osteospermums and other garden delights seem to prove your complaint. They stopped blooming weeks ago, as soon as the sun began to turn up the heat.
However, despite the climate, you can have a beautiful garden with continual flowering throughout most of the year – even in the Midwest. And you can do it without endless hours of garden work, a millionaire’s pocketbook or a hired staff of 20.
Here are some practices that will make your garden a place of beauty with something interesting to see year-round.
Plant in layers
The more plants you have, the greater the potential for accompanying bloom. Simply planting tons of plants won’t guarantee a pleasing scene, though. Instead, the intelligent way to jam your garden beds with flowers is to plant in layers.
Layered gardens usually incorporate all sorts of plants – small trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs. For example, in the center of a small, partially shaded garden bed, you could plant a native dogwood for spring color. Beneath the dogwood, you could plant clumps of hosta for season-long foliage, bleeding hearts for spring blooms, and perennial begonias for autumn color.
At the edges of the bed, add perennial geraniums, which bloom in early summer, and Japanese anemones, which will provide autumn beauty. Leave spots of bare earth throughout, and fill those spots each year with New Guinea impatiens, which will keep the show going throughout the summer. For the final layer, beneath the perennials, plant hardy cyclamen, snowdrops, crocus and tulips for spring color.
Consider foliage and character
Few plants bloom for more than several weeks at a time. Then, for the remainder of the gardening season, you’re left with the plant itself – stalks, leaves and berries. Are they interesting enough to merit planting in their own right? Is the shape of the plant itself – bushy, mounding, spiky – pleasing?
Choose plants with interesting shapes and leaves, and place them together with contrasting shapes and forms so your garden is attractive even when there isn’t much in bloom.