5 Plants that Create Year-round Interest
Yesterday I had the pleasure of finishing up at the nursery a little early and made it home while the sun was still up. I am fortunate enough to see beautiful flowers, tropical foliage, and plants that we keep in pristine condition in controlled environments. Sometimes I take this for granted. As I strolled through my landscape, I thought about what it might be like if the only plants I got to enjoy were the ones in my landscape.
How would I choose what to plant? I took stock of all the plants that I've planted over the years, and I started to notice a pattern. Initially, the pattern wasn’t clear but as I walked and looked around the pattern revealed itself. Instead of just telling you what the pattern was and risk possibly enlightening you to the point of not having to read the rest of my blog let's get started on the plants that caught my eye.
What plants offer four seasons interest?
At the time of writing this Mahonia winter sun is in full flower in my garden. Huge spikes of yellow flowers initially caught my eye in the distance and prompted my stroll. The bold flowers rise above the glaucous blue leaves and stand out up against about any backdrop. I planted three large groups of 5 plants each, and I’m thankful just about every day that I did. The flowers will turn to large dark blue almost concord grape color berries by summer, and the foliage keeps you interested in between.
A small stream runs behind our house and its one of my favorite places to visit in the yard. Every time I walk down to the stream, it seems that either mother nature or the power of water shows me something new that I didn’t notice before. Planted in small scattered pockets throughout the stream edge I've planted some Mahonia Soft Caress. These flowered a little earlier than the winter sun and but still had enough bright yellow to attract my attention. The foliage is similar to bamboo and during each season brings a peaceful look and feel to the area.
from where I stood I looked off into the distance, and something else caught my eye. Years ago I had planted a privacy screen of Green Giant Arborvitaes. Two years ago in front of the screen in the corner, I planted a mass group of Red Twig Dogwoods. Now that we have had our share of cold weather the stems of the dogwood a bright red. I was amazed at how the stood out in front of the dark green backdrop of the Green Giants.
I fell in love with Panicums years ago when ornamental grasses were not all the rage. There was a small group of nursery people heralding the benefits and uses of ornamental grasses in the landscape, so I gave them a try. I am so glad I did. In the summer the graceful upright stems move in even the softest of summer breezes. They have blue foliage which seems cool on even the hottest of summer days, but I think the real beauty is in the winter when the leaves dry out. There was a slight breeze blowing on this day, and the sound made by the foliage moving in the wind made me think that perhaps spring was hiding in the grasses and was beginning to wake up and move around. In normal years these would be cut down to 12” by now in an effort to keep my landscape tidy.
We all know that there are few plants that can rival the summer beauty of Limelight hydrangea. If I could only plant one hydrangea in my landscape, this would be it. I planted a long double row of these a few years back and have been in awe of its beauty every summer since then. Truth be told I am usually done with my winter pruning by now typically right after Christmas, but this year I’ve gotten behind. I almost didn’t go up and look at the Limelights out of embarrassment for neglecting my pruning. What I saw before my eyes changed my mind entirely regarding winter pruning. Moving in the breeze were hundreds of dried hydrangea blooms. They were no worse for the wear having gone through numerous winter storms and the coldest temps we have seen in years. The sound created by the touching together of the flowers in the breeze was amazing.
The age old question is “What should I plant?"
The answer to the age-old question may have become apparent to you by now after reading this but in case it didn’t I will answer it now. When you are considering what to plant often you can be misled by only considering flower colors, and leaf colors or what will the plant look like in the Spring, Summer or fall. But consider winter just as much when deciding on plants. Winter by nature presents itself to as a gray and cold almost devoid of life. What I’ve learned is that there is much beauty available to us through sight and sound in the winter you just need to take a moment to look around. There is a wonderful play or parade of colors and sounds available to us every day, but as gardeners, we often remove the major players in these spectacles in our effort to tame nature.
The answer is “Plant what will give you four seasons of enjoyment.” In today's culture, we must get the most value for our money. We do it with cars, furniture, and mattresses, why not do it with our plants as well.
Maybe you have already done your winter pruning, maybe you’ve already cut down your ornamental grasses. Today go out into your landscape and imagine the color and the sounds you are missing in your attempt to keep your garden tidy.
Over the next few months, I am going to expand on this topic; there is a major movement right now in the field of landscape design lead by visionaries such as Piet Oudoulf. Four season interest is not a new concept by any means, but we are definitely on the cusp of it becoming a true movement.
Enjoying and understanding my winter landscape has certainly opened my eyes to a new way to enjoy the garden.
Until next time, see you in the winter garden,