How to Design a Garden You Can Enjoy All Year


The key to enjoying your landscaping all year-round isn’t sexy, exciting nor secretive-it’s planning and design structure. To succeed in having a four-season landscape design, we will need to understand design, color, and form-and how the techniques apply to create your home landscape. How Design, Color, and Form relate to our desired goal of enjoying your gardens year-round will rely on staggering our flowers, shrubs, and trees so we can take advantage of their natural life cycle. The goal is to “stagger” our plants so we will have things flowering in the Spring, Summer and as Fall comes around, we will have colorful leaf changes and moving into Winter, we can rely on the plants shape or Form to create something beautiful to look at while everything has either died or moved into its dormant life stage.

Starting with Spring, we can break the season down into two sections, plants that flower in early and late Spring. That way once your early Spring flowers and blooms start to fall away, your late Spring plants will begin their ascent into full bloom. Because of this staggered approach, we’re going to need to spread these plants throughout the entire design because we don’t want one section to pop off while the rest of your gardens lie dormant. If we don’t look at the bigger picture, we might get lucky and have things look nice naturally, but with proper foresight, we can take advantage of the different life-cycles to enjoy the flowers for as long as possible without the need for new plants as the season changes.

Once the long days of Summer are upon us, we won’t be seeing as many blooms as we did in Spring because this is the time to enjoy the literal fruits of our labors. Flower buds turn to fruits and trees are filled with the deep green hues we associate with Summer vacation. Here we could have fruit trees or flowers and grasses that thrive in the high heat and long days of high summer start to show off their goods.

As the days grow shorter and Fall begins to descend upon our yards and gardens, we are hard pressed to find any more flowering plants; instead, we can focus on the turning of the leaves for our colorful focal point. Now, we can rely on the trees, decorative grasses and shrubs because they are the power players regarding leaf-changing beauty. These plants will be our last stand regarding color that we’ll see this season because we know that Winter Is Coming and we will finally see what I meant by “Form,” as discussed earlier.

Leaves will drop and start to turn into a colorful mess, littering our yards and gardens. No longer is the air filled with sweet-smelling flowers, the scent of fresh cut grass nor the hum of bumblebees toiling the day away. However, that doesn’t mean that we are at a loss, because we have an ace in the hole -just as we chose flowering plants for a staggered bloom cycle and our bushes and trees for their beautiful color changing leaves. So too did we plant a few “sleeper” knockouts that only start to show off their gifts AFTER the leaves have fallen away.

All we will have to look at now is the actual shapes or “skeletons” of the bushes, trees, and shrubs we planted way back in Spring. Referring again to the Planning portion of the process where the goal was to see into the future and anticipate what the plants would look like in their barren state, from there using those plants as a focal point for the colder months. After the snow has fallen (if we’re lucky), we will be able to look upon our yard and see the beautiful shapes the snow creates on our hibernating lawns, gardens, and patios.

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