Though I adore spring gardens, it’s wonderful that Piedmont gardeners have moved past the idea of putting all their time, space and money into a single season. I suppose it was only natural to start with, since spring-flowering trees, shrubs and perennials grow so beautifully here.
But the wealth of new plants that hit the marketplace over the past decade or so broadened everyone’s view of their landscapes. Instead of planting for spring, we now plant for the entire year with the goal of having something beautiful going on all the time.
This is most evident in perennial flowerbeds, where there are so many great choices you have no reason not to have something lovely from the chill of winter through the heat of summer and into the gorgeous days of autumn.
Some perennials will be the backbone of your beds because they present a long season of bloom.
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To accomplish this, the first thing to do is decide on the backbone plants for each season. Think of them as seasonal anchors.
These are reliable, long-blooming perennials and bulbs that give much reward for the space they occupy. For example, there are Lenten roses for winter; daffodils for spring; black-eyed Susans, day lilies or Shasta daisies for summer; and chrysanthemums for autumn. With these anchor plants in place, you can add to them seasonally with more perennials and bulbs that you think beautiful, and which appeal to your color sense and add texture and contrast.
I don’t think you have to follow a strictly even division; it’s more important that every season be represented.
Then think about secondary plants, such as columbine, irises and peonies for spring; hardy geraniums, garden phlox and coneflowers for summer; and anemones and asters for late summer into autumn. Many more options are in garden centers.
The thrill of this is in making the choices, and once you start it is hard to quit as you discover more and more lovely things.
While the color of flowers is personal and probably one of the first things you think about in choosing, don’t overlook the value of green.
Green comes in many shades from pale yellow-green to silvery, bluish green and even very dark hues. All contribute to the overall beauty and serenity of a flower bed. Heuchera, or coral bells, is a real winner in this category because it is offered in such a huge range of colors, including even bronze, gold and purple. Do not overlook this possibility, particularly as the foliage of many perennials looks good well beyond the bloom season.
When a flower bed is not in the hottest exposure with summer afternoon sun, the choices of foliage plants expands to include beautiful hardy ferns, which are a real asset to a garden because they are essentially trouble-free, long-lived and very fresh and beautiful.
Q. My camellias bloomed beautifully this winter and spring, but it seems the flower season is over. I want to do a little trimming and shaping. Is that OK now?
A. Yes. Your plant is probably showing new growth already. Try not to take off too much of that. But a little thinning and shaping should be fine. It was a splendid camellia winter.