Garden Design for Four Seasons

A ‘Skylands’ spruce is beautiful in summer, but is equally colorful all four seasons.

Garden design for four seasons is crucial in a northern climate.  Winter is long.  If you don’t plan ahead for its arrival, then it will be dull indeed.

I get to watch people shop at my nursery.  The really great gardeners are easy to pick out.   They choose plants for their appeal over a long season.  They choose plants that still look good in winter, and choose these with priority over what happens to be in bloom at the time of their shopping trip.

Conversely, if we see a cart loaded exclusively with plants in bloom at the moment of their purchase, then we know that the home garden will be likely to have only good spring color.   Worse yet, if they get only one of each variety, then the garden will be a jumble without theme.

Though this penstemon is not in bloom in December, the foliage is still green and helps the bed look full even in winter months.

Many plants look great in winter and in summer.  Genista lydia is one such plant that has remarkable bright yellow bloom, but also has interesting foliage for winter.   Most penstemons are evergreen, and thus add to the landscape year round.   Helianthemum can provide silver foliage in winter and blooms are various colors in summer.  And don’t forget the cacti.   Hardy cactus look good all year.  Some wilt a bit to prevent freezing damage and may add a new winter color, but others like ‘Snow Leopard’ are lovely every day of the year.

The most obvious plants to use in a garden design for four seasons are the conifers.  Dwarf conifers are sized for residential use, and come in many textures, shapes and colors.   A bright blue ball such a Picea ‘Blue Pearl’ or a gold tower such as Picea ‘Skylands’ can completely change a landscape.  They provide the structural element for the garden, making these the plants I place first when I layout a design.  The highest priority, four season plants get placed first.

Alan Tower Photo

Many cacti turn pink to purple in winter, adding to the winter interest. They wrinkle a bit as a way of preventing freeze damage (lower turgor pressure).

So if you see yourself as one of those people with a cart full of plants, each one different, and each in bloom, this is your chance to improve your garden.  All you need to do is think about making the garden cohesive by repeating some plants and design elements and make the garden beautiful year round by incorporating conifers and evergreen perennials.

Our staff is always ready to help.   Ask one of the long term employees here…they will know enough to guide you in your choices.  Brand new hires can typically help you load plants or check out, but find an experienced hand if you are seeking design input.  Or, simply hire our most experienced designer to do your garden for you.   Our landscape services are quite affordable.

And let’s not forget that pottery stays colorful and lovely in winter, and Tower pots are meant to be outside all four seasons.

A nice, basic shrub in summer, but ‘Midwinter Fire’ is a colorful addition to the winter landscape.