Planting Seasonally

When planning out a garden, most people are thinking about spring and summer — the warm months when the garden is most inviting. Once autumn has come and gone, what’s left is uninspiring. The most thrilling gardens are planted for all four seasons, with careful consideration given to creating visual interest and color all year round. These five steps will show you how to think about each season when planning out a garden.

Step 1: Have Perennial Color

As you select species for the garden, think beyond flowers, fruit, and summer foliage. Make a plant chart with four columns, one for each season, and try to incorporate plants that offer some color during the times other plants are dormant. Consider shrubs like red stemmed dogwood, whose crimson branches offer a splash of color in the snow or against the grayest winter skies. Select evergreen plants whose needles are unusually yellow or bluish, and always think about how fall foliage will enrich the landscape with yellows, oranges, and reds.

Planting Seasonally
Step 2: Grow in Layers

In nature, plants grow in layers, each adapted to different strata of light. By mimicking this in a garden design, you can create year-round seasonal interest. Planting a variety of forms, with varying heights, volumes, bark, and texture will ensure that every season is visually interesting. Filling in gaps in the garden can prevent it from having large bare spots during winter and fall.

Planting Seasonally
Step 3: Think Beyond the Bloom

Many plants have exceptionally beautiful features that remain after the blooms have long since fallen away. Teasels, ornamental grasses, and shrubs with unusual profiles can lend rich character to a garden as it moves through the coldest and most austere months of the year. Plan for texture as you plant your garden, imagining what the bare stems and branches of plants will look like in fall and winter.

Planting Seasonally
Step 4: Build Evergreen Architectures

From the needlelike points of Italian cypress trees to the splayed out arms of a Douglas fir, evergreen trees and shrubs can give structure to gardens in all seasons. A well-manicured laurel hedge or a boxwood border serve the same purpose: directing the eye and ushering visitors along pathways, 12 months a year. Well thought-out evergreen plantings can create the illusion of outdoor rooms so that gardens inspire a sense of wonder and discovery even when they are blanketed in snow.

Planting Seasonally
Step 5: Push Petals into Off-Seasons

There are few sights more welcome than the first crocuses of spring, snowdrops announcing longer days, and the brilliance of the earliest daffodils. The relief of early blooms is matched only by the nostalgia of those lingering blooms of late autumn: the graceful roses, purple asters, and glorious dahlias that continue until the first hard freeze. Planting a profusion of bulbs promises an early spring surprise, and a collection of late fall flowers helps to shorten the period of time between the final bud of fall and the first bloom of spring.

Planting Seasonally

With a little creativity and foresight, you can create a garden that delights year-round.