Gardening For Year Round Interest
Updated: Aug 3
The English Garden; A beautiful place to be on a summers day, surrounded by the sight and scent of flowers, birds and bees going about their business, foraging in the flower heads and hoping around the lawn... Autumn comes and the flowers fade, the plants start to wilt and before you've had your last BBQ of the year your garden is well and truly over until spring. But it doesn't have to be this way!
It is absolutely possible to design a garden with year round interest from spring to late winter. Providing food for wildlife and something for you to be glad to look out of the window at while drinking your coffee on cold winter mornings.
Well thought out planting design as well as a strong garden structure and layout are key to creating a garden with year round interest, whether you have a small shady space or large sprawling grounds with full sun, there are plants that will be suited to the environment AND provide year round interest.
It takes time and research to find plants with strong winter presence, and even longer to know how to match the right plants to the environmental conditions of an individual garden. As a garden designer I spend a lot of time visiting public gardens, parks and flower shows as well as reading books and magazines before experimenting in my own garden to ensure the theories work, so that I can safely select and use the best plants in my clients gardens.
It can be hard to know where to start when designing your own garden, so here are a few plants that will help you create a garden with year round interest.
To get you thinking;
Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' - Garden designers would be lost without ornamental grasses to provide contrast and movement to summer borders and colour to the winter garden. A wonderful upright grass that starts earlier than most, it will stand tall all winter. When used well, the rising or setting sun should illuminate the flower heads creating a beautiful glow at the back of the border. Cut it back in late winter ready for new growth to start in spring. Prefers full sun.
Carpinus betulus - A very useful hedging or larger topiary plant as it retains its browned leaves in winter. Great to help portray the changing of the seasons whilst keeping privacy and structure in the garden. It's well suited to being clipped and is suited to most soil types. Full sun to part shade.
Echinacea, Helenium & Rudbeckia - 3 different plant species, all will daisy like flowers in varying colours. They are all beautiful flowers and will stand well over winter if you select the right variety. The flowers provide much needed seeds for birds in the winter and are a magnet for bees and butterflies in the summer months. All prefer full sun.
Hydrangea quercifolia - Long lasting conical white flowers heads from summer to autumn, often changing to pink as the season progresses. The Oak shaped leaves turn bright orange in autumn before falling. Doesn't like to be in dry soil and prefers dappled shade.
Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis 'Soft Caress' - An evergreen shrub to approx 1m in height and width. Lovely soft foliage which contrasts nicely with neighbouring plants. Lemon yellow flowers in autumn and winter, it will work in full sun to full shade and isn't too fussy about soil type either!
Malus 'Evereste' - A crab apple which is even suited to small gardens. It works hard all year starting with red buds opening to white blossom in spring, pinkish orange crab apples in Autumn which are great for jellies and good autumn leaf colour before falling.
Phlomis russeliana - Strong standing stems with soft blue green leaves and yellow flowers from June onwards. The flowering stems will stay all autumn and winter and look great as winter structure in the garden. You need to keep your eye on it as it will spread if not kept in check. Plant it near the front of the border so you can see through it to contrasting or complementary flower colours depending on your preferred scheme. Prefers full sun.
Trachelospermum jasminoides - A great climbing plant for year round interest: Evergreen leaves that turn a rich red when touched by frost, it's slow growing requiring minimal maintenance and has lovely scented, white Jasmine flowers all summer. Full sun will give a longer flowering season.
Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ - A tall plant for the back of the border. An essential vertical accent to contrast with other plant forms in garden and planting design. Vertical stems topped with spikes of lilac flowers, interesting leaf shape and strong winter structure, it's a great plant for prairie and new perennial planting schemes. Prefers full sun.
Remember that not all plants are suited to all soil and light conditions, so do your research before selecting plants for your garden with year round interest design project.