a garden for 4 seasons

The winter months are the ideal time for the gardener to not only plan for the coming season, but to think about how the garden looks beyond spring and summer.Take a critical look outside at your garden now – what’s missing? The garden in February typically offers not much more than the standard evergreens and some bare shrubs. Expanding your plant selection beyond those that peak in spring and summer will greatly increase the satisfaction you get from your garden, minimizing the “down-time” in the colder weather.

Some ideas to get you started:

Fall foliage – flowering shrubs that provide lovely fall foliage as well as beautiful blooms include: Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Witch hazel (Hamamelis) and some varieties of spirea and viburnum.

Bark and berries – plants with unusual bark or brightly-colored berries are striking in the garden during the late fall and winter months. Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba), as the name implies, bears beautiful red branches that look especially striking after a snowfall. In addition to displaying pretty fall foliage, Oakleaf Hydrangea develops an unusual exfoliating bark as it matures. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and Beautyberry (Callicarpa) stand out with red and purple berries, respectively.

Early and late bloomers – It’s truly uplifting to walk out your door in the middle of winter and see plants in bloom, or in late October to still have flowers for cutting. Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) is a perennial that boasts evergreen leaves and blooms as early as February. Aster, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) and Stonecrop (Sedum “Autumn Joy”) start flowering in late summer and keep going through the fall. Shrubs to consider are Witch hazel (Hamamelis), for blooms in January, and Bluebeard (Caryopteris) and Spirea (Spiraea) for the fall. Bulbs are the perfect complement for early and late blooming shrubs, as you’ll find many varieties that bloom in almost every season.

Annuals and ornamental grasses – Designating a few spots in the garden for annuals ensures that you’ll have colorful blooms throughout the year. Annuals can take you from late winter with pansies and alyssums, right through the fall with chrysanthemums and Montauk daisies. And every garden should have at least one variety of ornamental grass. Grasses display flowering plumes through the summer and fall, and buff-colored foliage that stays up through the winter, lending a soft elegant look to the garden.

As always, light and soil conditions (as well as wildlife) will dictate what will thrive on your individual property. Use these tips as a starting point, and you’ll reap the benefits of a garden that is vibrant all year long.

Enjoy your garden!


“tending your garden” is reprinted with the permission of River Journal Inc., 914.631.7021
© 2008 sheri silver – fiorigarden.com