All great gardens have one thing in common. That is, they offer something during each of the four seasons. Through spring and summer the colorful flowers of perennials, annuals and flowering trees and shrubs are the focal point in the garden. Once the summer flowers begin to fade, the brilliant, colorful foliage of autumn brightens the garden. In the winter, it’s the evergreens, berries and bark which provide the garden with color as the form and shape of the plants become more prominent.
Green is the dominant color in the garden in the spring as everything seems to be rapidly putting out new growth. The bulbs and perennials which do flower in the early spring do so against a backdrop of green foliage and brown earth. Bulbs are earliest blooming plants in the garden and are essential to the spring landscape. Some bulbs will even provide color until more perennials begin to bloom in May and June.
Early flowering perennials such as iris range in color from white to yellow to purple and in size from a few inches to 4 feet. For spring foliage, plant some Hosta, they grow in a wide variety of greens, from blue-green to yellow-green and they’re the perfect backdrop plant for the spring flowers.
Perennial borders peak in mid summer as a wide range of sun-loving flowers begin to bloom. Part of the mix include some leftovers from spring and, towards the end of summer, there are signs of the later blooming flowers as well. Annuals are also in full bloom mid-summer. Though most have finished flowering, fully leafed out shrubs can add a lushness to the garden.
A third wave of blooms begin brighten up the garden once again as the summer flowers begin to fade. The colors in the garden begin to change a bit in the fall with many perennials blooming in shades of yellow, orange and purple. Among these flowers are the annuals, which continue to flower until the first frost. Later in the season, the flowers, especially those of the Sedum and Black-eyed Susan, turn into brown and rust colored seed heads. They fit in perfectly with the colorful fall foliage of the surrounding trees. The foliage of the late season perennial is attractive on its own.
Once the blooms of the these flowers fade deciding whether to cut them back is up to the individual gardener. Some perennials will collapse to the ground anyways while others will remain standing though the winter with their showy seed heads creating off season interest in the garden and providing food for the birds.
Winter, the season in which many gardeners forget about the landscape, can offer color and visual interest through evergreen shrubs, bark, plant form and seed heads. For example, a clump of ornamental grass could be left standing through the winter. Redtwig dogwoods are great against the snow and birch trees have colorful, flaking bark. The winter landscape truly would be empty with the hardy evergreen trees and shrubs. Garden walls and fences become more prominent as the foliage which screens them in the summer disappears. Hedges, as well as walls, make a stronger statement in winter.
With some careful planning, it is possible to have a beautiful garden year round. Even in winter, when everything seems to be stark and barren. A few choice shrubs or trees can provide winter interest and a well thought out garden can flower from early spring until the first frost.