As a gardener and designer who lives in the northeast I give extra special attention to creating a landscape that will supply interest throughout all of the four seasons. After determining function, such elements as structure, form, color, foliage and texture need to be taken into consideration when planning a landscape.
|SPRING PERENNIAL BORDER
The first main element I consider is structure. Structure is important in the garden because it serves as a framework for the design. Structural elements can be either plant material or hardscape. The use of evergreens or landscape plants with interesting bark or trunk formation can provide interest as well as functional elements such as patios, pathways, garden benches or water features. In the above perennial garden, Blue Montgomery Globe Spruce overlooks the main garden adding vertical interest while Juniperus ‘Blue Star’, Spirea ‘Goldflame’, Dwarf Fountain Grass and perennial Lamb’s Ear serve as a framework or anchors for the garden bed in winter. I have also added a few pieces of moss rock here and there to add some additional interest and dimension. When discussing form and function consider the purpose you would like your landscape to achieve. If it is a quiet place you desire then perhaps adding a small stone patio and/or garden bench could create a peaceful retreat. If looking to attract wildlife then a birdbath or feeder could also be an addition or possibly a garden statue could provide some whimsy!
|SUMMER PERENNIAL BORDER
Color plays an important role and is more difficult to achieve in winter. Plant perennials that complement one another (warm and cool hues) and that have varying bloom times. Add colorful shrubs such as Barberry and Gold Mop Cypress for additional interest. Take into consideration the fact that foliage and bloom colors of perennials and shrubs do change with each season. The idea is to disperse color equally among the four seasons. Elements such as Dwarf Fountain Grass provide greenery in spring throughout summer and a take on a bronze appearance in fall and winter. Fall foliage on such perennials as Astilbe and Daylily turn a vibrant orange and gold while Hosta leaves turn a bright yellow. Lamb’s Ear is a discovery I made years ago. Its soft white foliage can be seen along the garden border every season of the year and its pink flower spikes add extra interest in the summer. In the winter months the blue evergreens such as Montgomery Spruce and Blue Star Juniper along with golden evergreens (Gold Mop Cypress and Gold Lace Juniper), Dwarf Fountain Grasses and Lamb’s Ear give just enough interest to get through those cold and snowy days.
|AUTUMN PERENNIAL BORDER
Without blooms texture becomes the primary design element. Texture refers to the size, shape, coarseness or smoothness of foliage and plays along with structure. Some plants known for texture are Hosta, Heuchera, Daylily, and ornamental grasses. The incredible large and colorful foliage of Heuchera(Coral Bells) and graceful fronds of Daylily complement the broad veined variegated leaves of Hosta and narrow wispy blades of dwarf fountain grasses. The feathery foliage of Astilbe and the elongated smooth foliage of Lamb's ear make a great combination as well. Even the dried seed heads and stalks of saliva rise up above the garden to create landing pads for dragonflies in the fall. Deciduous shrubs such as spirea and barberry add interesting foliage in spring, summer and fall and provide structure in winter. Add some evergreens which play an integral part in adding all the elements of structure, color, form and foliage to the landscape for all of the four seasons.
|WINTER PERENNIAL BORDER
Evergreens can be found in a variety of colors ranging from golds to blues and greens and textures ranging from broad-leaved evergreens to fine-needled varieties. They can also take on a variety of forms including rounded, horizontal or spreading, vertical and weeping. These elements can be placed accordingly to add width or height to a garden. In this case the grafted Montgomery Globe Spruce provides a vertical element in the garden. 'Blue Star' Juniper, Spirea and Dwarf Fountain Grasses anchor each side of the garden bed and show continuity, uniformity and balance. Lamb's Ear frames the front of the perennial area. Looking further you can view Weeping Pussy Willow and Arborvitae (vertical) with Gold Mop Cypress and Barberry (Medium height and horizontal). That upper and lower sections of the garden have more detailed structure with evergreens and flowering shrubs with the perennial garden in the center.
COLOR, FORM & STRUCTURE: Evergreens provide form in winter landscape, Structure of Japanese Maple Trunk, Color of Coral Bark Maple Bark in winter, Changing Colors of Spirea Foliage
In the above photograph evergreens provide form and structure in the winter landscape, the twisting structure of a Weeping Japanese Maple trunk provides interest while the tree is dormant, the vibrant red bark of the Japanese Coral Bark Maple (Sango Kaku) provides structure and color in winter, and the changing blooms and foliage of Spirea are turning a deep pink in fall. A garden is constantly changing and can be enjoyed all year round with some basic elements of structure, form and color. Creating an all-season landscape can be accomplished by following the design principles discussed here and guaranteed your garden will have something to offer every day of the year!
As Always...Happy Gardening!
Author: Lee@ A Guide to Northeastern Gardening. All rights reserved 2014.