The most attractive landscape is one that provides interest all year long. Carefully selected plants, good maintenance and some creativity can produce a landscape that is pleasing to look at as well as functional.
Almost every plant chosen for the landscape should fulfills a seasonal purpose and offers year-round beauty. Very few contribute to the garden’s beauty during only one season. Some display noteworthy features every month of the year, while others are at their best at times when traditional gardens seem hard-pressed for interest.
In a four-season landscape, the idea is to try to group plants that bloom sequentially so that each area of the garden remains in bloom for as long as possible. Where flowers don’t provide interest, use foliage to draw the eye, creating lovely color and texture combinations that last from spring through fall. Don’t forget the colorful berries of many plants. Nothing provides a more striking contrast than the red berries of the Chinese hollies on a backdrop of bright green foliage.
The winter garden usually is stark and sparse compared to the rest of the year, but it can still have color and interest. Even in December and January, when flowers remain few and far between, bunches of red berries of the hollies, dark blue of the leatherleaf mahonia, red fruit of deciduous viburnums and golden berries of western soapberry can make a color impact on the landscape. Evergreen foliage will sparkle with heavy-laden colored berries.
Trees and shrubs selected for textured or brightly colored bark or unusual branching patterns make for an attractive winter picture. For example, the bark of the sycamore is dark gray when young but turn white to grayish white that is quite showy in the winter.
Seedpods and ornamental grasses left standing can decorate the garden throughout the winter. Evergreen ground cover plants such as winter-flowering heathers can be grown at the front of a border for extra winter color.
Spring, the season of birth, lets the garden spring into a haze of new foliage and a profusion of flowers. The planned sequence of early perennials, bulbs, and flowering shrubs and trees in a landscape can create an attractive landscape year after year. Many of the spring blooming plants remain attractive even when summer comes enhancing their foliage, berries or form that continue to contribute to the landscape long after their flowers have faded.
Summer, generally considered to be the growing season, brings a wealth of flowers to most gardens. As the young foliage of spring gives way to the deep green of summer, the garden develops more substance and fullness. Roses abound, while annuals and perennial flowers add brighter colors to complete the landscape.
Without careful planning, a perennial garden often reaches its peak in midsummer and then suddenly ceases to perform. One day it’s beautiful, the next day it’s dead looking. Choose plants for their long season blooming or include an assortment of late summer and fall blooming perennials and bulbs for a continuous bloom of flowers.
Autumn doesn’t signal death in a four-season garden, but sets off a celebration of fall colors. As summer progresses into autumn, purples, gold, lavender, orange, yellow and red add the colors to the landscape. Specially selected for their dependable fall display, deciduous shrubs and trees begin their fiery hues at the end of the growing season. These colorful leaves usually don’t drop until close to Thanksgiving. Shrubs with berries, fall-flowering bulbs and dwarf conifers will also provide interest in the fall, and usually all of this glowing color is perfectly set off by a backdrop of evergreen colors.
And don’t forget the container grown plants. They can bring many different colors and textures to the landscape then moved indoors or emptied to make ready for next year.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton.