Rick King: Dazzle with Continuous Color and Varied Texture in your Garden
April 7, 2015
Achieving long lasting color is a challenge for busy homeowners who don’t want to make a career out of tending to their yards and gardens, but want to enjoy color outdoors as long as possible. While most of my customers are insistent on landscapes with low maintenance, they realize the long lasting blooms from annuals come with digging them up and planting new ones every year. While there is always a use for some annuals, achieving continuous color comes with knowledge of plant material and blooming times. I like to choose flowering trees not just for their blooms, but for their foliage the rest of the season. I love Kousa dogwoods for that reason. Kousa have few pests and bloom in June and July in the northeast after other flowering trees are gone. Another late summer blooming shrub is Rose of Sharon, which usually peaks in this area in late August and comes in several shades of white, pink and purple.
All Photography courtesy of Hoffman Landscapes, Inc., Wilton, Connecticut
Foliage color is important. I find that so many homeowners fail to think of foliage color and texture when planning their gardens. In fact, I’d venture to say that as much as 70% of the work I do is with shade gardens where blooming plants are often secondary. You can plant varying colors of foliage in Heuchera, Hosta and Solomon’s Seal which all offer interesting textures that are very soothing to the senses and provide color from spring into fall. Foliage needn’t be monochromatic either. I love to use Dwarf Blue Spruce, Gold Mound Spirea, and Wine & Roses Wygelia. The Wygelia provides stunning burgundy foliage all season. Even though they are not as plentiful as the sun loving perennials, there are many shade plants that provide some lovely blooms. A few of my favorites? Astilbe, Columbine and Hellebore.
Sun loving perennials not only provide beautiful colors to look at but can delight the senses throughout the season in other ways. To attract butterflies, which like bees aid in pollination, plant Butterfly Bush or native plants like Milkweed, which thrives in meadow settings (and is also great if you’re all about low maintenance). Placing fragrant plants like lavender or catmint (aka Nepeta) next to a walkway or patio provides wonderful scents for your guests.
Finally, as many of my clients have discovered, hydrangeas come in so many varieties that you can achieve months of continuous blooms with them now.
Rick King is a horticulturist at Hoffman Landscapes, Inc. in Wilton, Connecticut. He is an expert in New England native and ornamental plantings, and is particularly fond of water feature design and installation.