All year flowers plants

Creating colour in your garden and home through the winter months takes planning. October is the time to get planting! Gardening expert Joanna Cruddas suggests bulbs and colour combinations for your pots and borders.


Amaryllis Royal Velvet

Image via Hunter Net

December is a month for festive colours.

Amaryllis Royal Velvet can grow to a magnificent 3’ and produces luxurious rich red flowers. They should flower two months after planting and will last for several weeks indoors.

Narcissus Paper White

A pot filled with narcissus Paper White fills a room with scent in early winter.

Once planted, keep in a cool, dark place for several weeks. Check regularly and water if the soil is drying out.

Bring into the warmth when the shoots reach about 2 inches.


Hyacinth bulbs should just show above the surface of your pots when planted.

Place several in a wide shallow bowl, sticking to one colour per pot. Keep in a cool place for two months and then bring into the warmth. An October planting could give you a colourful January.

Alternatively, grow in a glass hyacinth vase and enjoy watching the roots dangle in the water. (Hyacinth scent is heavy and some may prefer to grow outside).

Iris Reticulata

Delicate and diminutive iris reticulata deserve pots to match. Bury at least 2 inches below the surface and leave outside until buds appear.

Bring them inside and enjoy the deep blues of Harmony, Gordon and Clairette or the paler shades of Iris Specie Katherine Hodgkin and Sheila Ann Germany in January and February.


Create ground cover by planting cyclamen in partial shade.

Once established, it will become a carpet of pink and white during the winter months.

Dwarf Narcissus

Image via J Parkers

March is a month for yellows.

Dwarf narcissus will brighten up the front of a border, window box or inside window ledge. There are many varieties and it’s fun to include the less obvious ones.

Rip Van Winkle resembles a sparkler with its multitude of spiky petals. For contrast, try the ‘hoop-petticoat’ daffodils such as Golden Bells. Intersperse these with grape hyacinths for spirals of blue.


The bold heads of alliums, late-flowering daffodils and tulips, ensure colour for May. Forget-me-nots make an excellent carpet for yellow and red tulips to tower above.

Orange tulips such as Ballerina complement poeticus daffodils, such as Pheasant’s Eye.

Always check bulbs are in good condition before planting and discard any that are soft. When planting in the garden, group at least seven together for a colourful display.

Joanna Cruddas lives in London and gardens at her plot in Fulham Palace Meadows Allotments, on her balcony, and in her window boxes. She is the author of The Three-Year Allotment Notebook with photographs by Edwina Sassoon.

Year Round Garden Planner: How To Create A Four Season Garden

While planting a garden is not an overly taxing chore, planning for a four-season garden takes a little more thinking and organizing. Designing year-round gardens ensures that your home is surrounded by color and interest through all four seasons.

Year-Round Garden Planner

Before beginning your garden, create a year-round garden planner where you can identify the plants that will bloom each season in your garden. A planner will not only help you keep track of what you have planted, but it will also allow you to add garden notes or other thoughts as well as pictures.

How to Create a Four-Season Garden

Designing year-round gardens simply begins with choosing appropriate plants for your region. Depending on where you live, you can use any combination of perennials, annuals and container plantings for these all-season flower gardens.

Although it is somewhat easier for gardeners in the South to accomplish a variety of color all season long, northerly gardeners may achieve interest and color year round as well by implementing plants with interesting foliage or other features.

The key to a successful year-round garden is to know which species do best in your region and understand when their display is greatest. To create balance in your four-season garden, it is best to choose at least two types of plants that will flower together during each season.

Four-Season Container Gardens

In addition to all-season flower garden, you can also choose to create four-season container gardens. These are a great alternative for those living in cooler climates. Containers are also an excellent way to add color to your garden all year long.

Containers offer a flexible solution for using annuals or can be a great home for attractive evergreen or perennial plants. Spring-blooming bulbs can be mixed with summer and fall-blooming plants in a mixed container display that provides color well into the cool season in most areas.

Four-season container gardens can also provide the option of changing your plantings with each new season.

Plant Suggestions for Designing Year-Round Gardens

Although your choice of plants will vary depending on your region and the amount of sunlight your garden receives, these suggestions of seasonal plants will give you an idea of what a four-season garden may look like. It is always best to choose native species when you can, and if you need help deciding on which plants to select, you can contact your local Cooperative Extension Office for help.

Spring Plants

Fill your spring section of your garden with flowering bulbs and other spring-blooming plantings for a burst of color following a long winter. These may include:

  • Tulip
  • Crocus
  • Snowdrop
  • Daffodil
  • Peony
  • Pansy

Forsythia and other spring-blooming shrubs provide spring color for larger landscape areas.

Summer Plants

There is a wide variety of summer-blooming flowers that have excellent blooming power. While far too extensive to list, some of the more common choices may include:

  • Daylily
  • Coneflower
  • Zinnia
  • Nasturtium
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Bee balm
  • Rose
  • Guara
  • Hydrangea

Fall Plants

Fall favorites for all-season flower gardens include:

  • Asters
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Mums
  • Hardy begonias
  • Ornamental kale
  • Flowering cabbage
  • Pansy
  • Sedum

Winter Plants

While the southerly gardener can enjoy a host of color during the winter, including such plants as the hardy camellia, northerly gardens benefit from such plants as evergreen hollies, firethorn and chokeberry bushes that have lovely berry displays all winter long.

Very early bloomers like snowdrops and hellebores can even tolerate some snow and frost and are commonly seen popping up on a snowy day towards the end of winter.

Plants that offer interest across the seasons are invaluable in gardens great and small. Designer Andy Sturgeon recommends his top 15 plants for year-round interest.

There are plenty of good plants for year-round interest, but some plants have better staying power than others.

For instance, dogwoods are particularly suited to winter gardens with their coloured stems, as are flowering shrubs like chimonanthus and sarcococca, but they can be quite disappointing for the rest of the year.

No matter how exquisite a plant is at its peak, it has no room in any of my gardens unless it is a lot more than just a one-season wonder. If you look around, there are actually plenty of plants for year-round interest that offer excellent value throughout the seasons.

What are the best plants for year-round interest?

Trachelospermum jasminoides is an evergreen climber that will self-cling to its support Photo:

Trachelospermum jasminoides

I find it hard to avoid Trachelospermum jasminoides when looking for plants for year-round interest. In plenty of sun, this evergreen climber can flower for what seems like all summer. The scent is sweet, but often overlooked are the autumn tints, which add a reddish-hue to some of the leaves; unusual for an evergreen. Plants can easily be trained to cover a whole fence or trellis to make a green wall of foliage, which no other evergreen climber, apart from rampant ivy, can achieve.

Amelanchier lamarckii, Wikimedia

Amelanchier lamarckii

Amelanchier lamarckii is one of the stars of spring and another favourite plant for year-round interest. Summer berries change to red and eventually darken, although it’s the birds the berries bring in that are the real bonus, followed by the yellows and oranges of autumn leaves.

Despite these attributes, I think I actually prefer it stark naked. In winter, the intertwined stems of a multi-stem tree or shrub are as good as any sculpture, and with a light shining up from beneath, grazing the grey bark of the trunks and making the canopy glow, it is simply unbeatable.

Phlomis russeliana, Wikimedia

Phlomis russeliana

“The colour yellow can be awkward and sometimes unloved but I can’t dispense with Phlomis russeliana. You need to be a bit careful as it will take over if you take your eye off it. The robust grey-green downy leaves make tight, weed-beating clumps, and I like to use it at the front of borders and repeat it through the planting scheme. This way it offsets daintier foliage,” says Andy. The whorls of pale-yellow flowers appear in June and keep flowering for a month or so but they come into their own when they fade to dark globes. They remain on upright stems above evergreen leaves through autumn and winter. Sitting among grasses and other seedheads, they are simply breathtaking plants for year-round interest.

The attractive peeling bark of Acer griseum Photo:

Acer griseum

If peeling bark is your thing, the paperbark maple, Acer griseum, is the sort of tree that gets even non-gardeners salivating, so you know you are onto something good. For maximum ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’, I always put one near a path, so that the sun sets behind it and shines through the peeling coppery bark, making it irresistible. Covered in small winged fruit for much of the summer, the wine-red autumn tints arrive satisfyingly early, and although these small trees find a well-balanced shape on their own, I like to improve things by removing the odd branch here and there to let the sunlight in.

Betula pendula, Wikimedia

Betula pendula

Winter gardens are rarely without Himalayans, white-barked birch trees, which are great plants for year-round interest and for a close encounter. However, seen from a distance, the winter outline and delicate branch network of our native birch, Betula pendula, outstrips all the others with its graceful, gently weeping form. I have one in my own garden that I can see from the upstairs windows. Each winter, once the yellow leaves have dropped, it’s like being reacquainted with an old friend. Planted en masse, the slender twiggy branches create a purple haze, which in winter sunlight is stunning against the green bulk of pine trees. If you get out the jetwasher, the bark scrubs up pretty well, too.

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’, Wikimedia

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’

The purple moor grass, Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’, starts out as a neat clump of mid-green leaves. Then it sends out spikes of dark-purplish flowers as early as June, way before most grasses are doing anything. After this, in late summer, it turns a rusty-brown colour, then fades as it heads into winter.

Nandina domestica, Wikimedia

Nandina domestica

The evergreen Nandina domestica will grow in sun or shade in most soils. With its slender upright stems, it brings a certain elegance to almost any planting style. The leaves emerge as a soft-salmon colour in spring. These are followed by starry white flowers. The new leaves turn green, then autumn delivers a second round of fiery tints. Leaves remain coloured throughout winter, and the berries ripen to a vivid red.

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

And now I must confess to a guilty pleasure. When I started out in the 1980s, Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ was all the rage because it is evergreen, tough, will grow in any soil and any aspect – and has scented late-autumn flowers and followed by dark-blue berries. But let’s face it: it’s not very subtle. Enter M. eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’ to save the day. Far less brutish, with spineless, slender, graceful leaves, this compact, 1m-tall shrub starts flowering in late summer and is genuinely beautiful in leaf. I’ve started using it in gravel gardens because the leaf shape contrasts so well with its neighbours.

Phlomis tuberosa habitus, Wikimedia

Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’

For height, opt for Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’. At up to 1.8m tall, the leaves are less imposing, and Andy often plants it with Angelica gigas and some of the taller panicums. The dark-purple stems bear amethyst flowers and compared to its yellow cousin, there are far more of them per plant, leaving something of a thicket of flowerheads, which overwinter well.

Hornbeam is a hardy and reliable hedging plant that can look good all year round Photo:

Carpinus betulus

Hornbeam clipped as a hedge will retain its coppery leaves in winter, but an untrimmed tree will not. The fastigiate Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’ has a very fine, dense branch network, so even without leaves they have quite a presence. The twiggy, dark-grey silhouettes are outstanding when they are backlit.

Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ , Wikimedia

Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’

It is impossible to imagine lavender without bees, and Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ is a favourite. “Being relatively small and with a strong-purple flower colour, it makes a good path edging, but I also choose this particular variety for the foliage, specifically its winter leaf.”

This lavender is a wonderful silvery-grey shade. Provided your trim it lightly after flowering, it remains incredibly neat in winter. It appears a little more evergreen, and therefore tidier, than other varieties.

Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’, Wikimedia

Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’

Brilliant as an edging plant or a carpet under small trees and shrubs, Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’ is a truly year-round plant, which seems to lighten up dull corners. Andy finds it invaluable for plugging gaps or filling awkward areas. In spring and autumn, the foliage colours up a reddy-bronze between the green veins, which is dazzling. Some people cut off the evergreen leaves in late winter, so that the pretty yellow flowers are seen at their best before the new leaves unfurl, “but I must confess that I prefer the lazy option and leave them on,” he says.

Clerodendron trichotomum fargesii, Wikimedia

Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii

Stretching the seasons comes naturally for the harlequin glorybower. At 5-6m tall, this exotic-looking shrub could be thought of more as a small tree. The new leaves are bronze as they appear in spring, and once they are pumped up into the green leaves of summer, pink buds explode into balls of fragrant white flowers with green sepals. These give way to shiny, metallic, turquoise berries held by star-shaped, scarlet calyces, which steal the show as the leaves yellow and drop in autumn. And if the birds don’t get them, the berries last all winter.

Veronicastrum virginicum, Wikimedia

Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’

Usually grown for its tall, slender, lilac-flower spikes, Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ is a stalwart of naturalistic, prairie-type planting schemes, where it adds an essential vertical accent against flat umbels, daisies, sanguisorbas and grasses. Stunning in death, its spring and summer assets are often overlooked. Whorls of hemp-like foliage are green at first becoming tinged with red. This an eye-catching plant long before the flower buds are even thinking about opening.

Rosa glauca has attractive foliage, flowers and hips that make it a feature plant for many months Photo:

Rosa glauca

As time rolls on, I have adopted more and more roses into my palette, often picking them for scent, a lengthy flowering season, disease resistance and a glossy leaf. The one I use most has little to offer on paper, however. Rosa glauca has virtually no scent and the small but lovely flowers appear only once. The leaves, however, are extraordinary: slate-grey or bluish-purple on top, and almost crimson underneath, so that the whole plant shimmers. There is barely a mixed border where I haven’t planted at least one. The small, scarlet hips shouldn’t be forgotten either. They quickly follow the flowers and last well into winter, becoming increasingly noticeable as neighbouring plants go off the boil.

For our pick of the top plants for attracting bees, click here.

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Four-Season Garden Star

Painterly Beds and Borders

Photo by Jerry Pavia

It’s the holy grail of all garden designers: a low-maintenance, high-impact landscape of sturdy, reliable plants whose colors and textures evolve throughout the seasons, a place where everything seems to sit together just right.

Shown: Homeowner Barb Safranek, a licensed landscape architect, chose Sherwin-Williams’s Intellectual Gray for her stucco house as a neutral backdrop for plants, particularly the native Ponderosa pine glimpsed here.

Multi-tasking Pavers for the Front Garden

Photo by Jerry Pavia

When the Spokane landscape architect began transforming bedrock into this enviable garden that’s compelling all year round, she knew she was in for an adventure. Ten years and tons of trucked-in soil later, the garden is now a soulful, elegant space anchored by dwarf trees and shrubs that provide structure and packed with fuss-free perennials. It’s a masterful mix of bold colors, dramatic foliage combinations, myriad shades of green, sculptural shapes, and spectacular drought-tolerant specimen plants that pretty much take care of themselves.

Shown: Stone sets the tone for the front gardens. Pavers laid in a fan pattern in front of the house and garage do triple duty: as parking pad, pathway, and entertainment space. Boulders, their impact softened by perennials and shrubs, pay homage to the area’s natural landscape.

Informal Gravel Path

Photo by Jerry Pavia

The place looked different a decade ago, when Barb and her husband, Mark, first saw the two-thirds acre in the city’s South Hill neighborhood. It was one of the last available lots on the street, but no developer wanted it. The reasons were underfoot: solid basalt rock with elevation changes, rising to a bare knoll where even tree roots couldn’t find traction.

Shown: A border between the house and the parking area has a less formal feel with a gravel path and a carpet of groundcovers.

View-Framing Shrubs

Photo by Jerry Pavia

As a designer, she frequently plays rock against plants, so this was the kind of land she wanted. “We knew building here would be a challenge, but the basalt gives the region the personality it has. We threw out common sense and bought it.”

As plans were being drawn for the house, she stood where the gardens would most likely be viewed and made her plant choices from those vantage points. “I started gardening once the foundation was in. Drove the contractor crazy,” she says.

Shown: A triangle of shrubs—a potted dwarf white pine, a weeping purple European beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Tortuosa Purpurea’) near the door, and a ‘Frohburg’ weeping Norway spruce—frames the view from the garage to the far side of the house.

Range of Thriving Container Plants

Photo by Jerry Pavia

Barb began with the welcoming front yard. “This area in particular must have visitor appeal every season. I don’t want people thinking, I’ve got to come back in July to see what the garden looks like,” she says. The front of the house faces southeast, the sunniest spot on the property. To transform the rocky area for planting, Barb trucked in topsoil, lots of it, up to 2 feet deep in some places, to ensure that plants had enough room to put down roots. “A strong root system helps keep a plant healthy, and healthy plants don’t need fussing over,” she says.

Shown: A trio of pots with annuals (left) and succulents (center and right) shows the range of plants that thrive in this temperate Zone 5 climate.

Supersize Container Garden

Photo by Jerry Pavia

Flanking the front and side entry doors are shrubs that highlight the house’s architecture, including dogwood, Japanese maple, and columnar juniper. In the beds below, a mix of flowering and evergreen perennials and low shrubs tumble over and between the large boulders Barb installed to provide texture. “I wanted a tapestry effect in these beds, and to get that look I needed a variety of low-growing plants,” she says. “Most of the perennial plants in my borders are 2 feet and under in height, which gives an open feel and makes maintenance easier.”

Shown: Containers play a large role in this garden, and Barb’s not afraid to supersize them. “Most plants grow better in large pots,” she says. “Start at 24, 36, 45 inches wide and tall. Smaller pots simply dry out too quickly.”

At the back door, Barb sited a trio of tall pots to enhance the soaring effect of the windows and doors. One is a container turned fountain (left); the others hold seasonal annuals. ‘Cole’s Prostrate’ hemlock (right of door) is an unusual but effective choice for a container plant.

Border Full of Foliage

Photo by Jerry Pavia

As the seasons change, so does this area; the maples turn scarlet or orange in fall, and late-season bloomers like asters and ornamental grasses come into flower. In winter, when temperatures often fall into the teens, hardy evergreens—hemlock, juniper, pine—keep the color going. When spring rolls around, flowering bulbs and roses dot the borders, blooming in shades of pink and white. There’s no front lawn to mow, but it’s not missed.

Shown: The border at the back of the house is all about foliage; ruffly rhubarb, hostas with variegated leaves, fine-leafed astilbes, and a smoky-purple-leafed snakeroot (upper-right corner). Stones add contrast and color. “For a rock to look natural, a third to a half should be buried in the ground,” says Barb.

Three Tiers of Border Blooms

Photo by Jerry Pavia

Things were less simple in the north-facing backyard. Barb’s big challenge there was figuring out what to do with the knoll, a 25-by-15-foot oval of almost solid rock that drops off into a ravine. The little soil it had was thin and sat in full sun. Few plants can handle these dry, unforgiving conditions, but Barb decided to chance it. Thyme took, as did low-growing barberry, veronica, and sedum. In one particularly inhospitable area, she skipped digging altogether and put an ephedra and a blue rug juniper in a huge pot, with two empty vessels nearby as accents. Most of these plants go dormant in winter, except for the whimsical juniper topiary and shrubby dwarf pines, which look handsome when lightly dusted with snow.

Surrounding the knoll, Barb added a small stretch of lawn and ringed that with a deep perennial border filled with easy-care plants, including purple coneflower, coral bells, barberry, lavender, and daylily. “In an 8-foot-deep border, I start in front with low groundcovers, then 12- to 18-inch plants in the middle, and then plants in the 2- to 2½-foot range at the back,” she says.

Shown: In the backyard, a border blooms in three tiers: plume poppy, yellow-flowered helianthus, and barberry ‘Helmond Pillar’ at the rear; English lavender, ‘Big Sky Sundown’ coneflower, and daylilies in the middle; and, down front, dwarf barberry ‘Bagatelle,’ coral bells ‘Obsidian,’ hardy geraniums, and colorful annuals.

Rocky Knoll as Garden Focal Point

Photo by Jerry Pavia

Near the back door leading to the knoll, Barb laid beds filled with hostas and other perennials chosen for their distinctive leaf colors. “I place a high priority on beautiful foliage,” she says. “Flowers come and go, but foliage lasts.” When it comes to choosing flowering plants, however, she throws away the color wheel. “I don’t make a color scheme for flowers. I pick any color I like. No flower color looks bad against another—the green in the garden unifies it all. That said, I plant in sweeps of color and repeat those plants to lead the eye around the garden.” Fortunately for Barb, eastern Washington’s intermountain climate of hot summers, cold winters, and low humidity means she can grow “just about anything, from cactus to rhododendrons.”

Shown: In the backyard, only explosives could have cleared a large outcropping of rock, so Barb let it be. Rather than attempt to hide this knoll with shrubs or cover it with turf, she used its scale to her advantage, creating an impressive focal point. The soil is shallow here, so she chose groundcovers, such as thyme, to green it up, and planted a larch tree (center), dwarf pines, and drought-tolerant perennials, including lavender and lamb’s ears. Final touches included a ‘Gold Cone’ juniper carved into a spiral topiary and pots filled with purple-leafed flax, ephedra, Million Bells, and petunias.

Pots of Plants for Year-Round

Photo by Jerry Pavia

At least 20 huge pots stand like ceramic exclamation points throughout the garden and on the stone steps, planted with everything from petunias to a 6-foot-tall Sargent’s weeping hemlock. “Once a pot is planted, I don’t waste time moving it in and out for the winter,” says Barb. “It stays where it is.” The thick walls of the glazed Vietnamese containers seem to hold up just fine here, despite temperatures that dip down into the teens in winter.

Shown: Orange and red begonias paired with elephant ears and ‘White Nancy’ lamium spill from this urn on the back patio.

Dreamy Purple and Red Mix

Photo by Jerry Pavia

In spring, Barb happily devotes entire days to pruning, dividing, and planting. But once summer’s hot weather arrives, with daytime temperatures in the 90s, she spends as little as 4 hours a week pulling stray weeds, checking the irrigation systems—Spokane gets just 18 inches of rain each year—and clipping back straggly annuals.

When everything’s so abundant, how do you keep the garden from taking over your life? Smart planting choices keep the to-do list short. “Gardens are both works of art and hardworking living spaces,” Barb says. Every plant must earn its right to be there. The groundcovers grow into one another, forming a mat that shades out weeds. Many of the plants are self-cleaning—spent blossoms drop off on their own, no deadheading required. Dwarf evergreens grow slowly, needing only occasional pruning, which can be done on terra firma instead of a ladder. Plants that struggle are given the heave-ho.

Shown: Japanese blood grass, barberry, and tricolor sage harmonize in shades of purple and red.

Garden Path With Ample Plantings

Photo by Jerry Pavia

And maintenance doesn’t mean meticulous manicuring. In the fall, Barb lets the garden grow a bit wild, savoring the oranges and reds of the Japanese maples and dogwoods and the seed heads of ornamental grasses. Unless mild weather offers a window for pruning, winter provides a break from physical chores and an opportunity to evaluate the garden’s structure and consider how to improve its look. This is when the evergreens, red-twigged dogwood, and other trees and shrubs with interesting bark earn their keep.

With the hours gained by adhering to low-maintenance plantings, how does Barb spend the extra time? She loves to stroll through the garden on summer mornings, coffee cup in hand. Occasionally she indulges the urge to pull a weed or two. But she doesn’t make a habit of it.

Shown: A glazed ribbed pot filled with coleus and verbena marks a turn in the path.

Shrub Picks for Seasonal Interest

Photo by Jessica Holden Photography/Getty

“Gardens should draw you outdoors at all times of the year,” says landscape architect Barb Safranek. Here are some of her favorite shrubs for seasonal interest.


‘Prairifire’ crabapple (Malus ‘Prairifire’)

Zones: 4-8

Details: Notably scab resistant; purple foliage, red-pink flowers, dark red fruit.

Habit: Grows up to 20 feet tall and wide.

Care: Full sun.

Spring: ‘Leonard Messel’ Magnolia

Photo by Doreen Wynja/Monrovia

Magnolia x loebneri (‘Leonard Messel’)

Zones: 5-9

Details: Fragrant white flowers in early spring.

Habit: Grows up to 15 feet tall and wide.

Care: Full sun to partial shade.

Summer: ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ Dappled Willow

Photo by Doreen Wynja/Monrovia

Salix integra (‘Hakuro Nishiki’)

Zones: 5-7

Details: Spring’s pink foliage turns rose, creamy white, and green.

Habit: Grows up to 15 feet tall and wide.

Care: Full sun.

Summer: ‘Wolf Eyes’ Japanese Dogwood

Photo by David McGlynn/Getty

Cornus kousa (‘Wolf Eyes’)

Zones: 5-8

Details: Variegated foliage and large white flowers followed by red berries.

Habit: Grows up to 20 feet tall and wide.

Care: Partial sun.

Autumn: ‘Diana’ Japanese Larch

Photo by Organica/Alamy

Larix kaempferi (‘Diana’)

Zones: 4-8

Details: In fall, needles turn from blue-green to butter-yellow.

Habit: Grows up to 20 feet tall and 7 feet wide.

Care: Partial to full sun.

Autumn: ‘Tiger Eyes’ Sumac

Photo by Joshua McCullough/Getty

Rhus typhina (‘Tigereye Bailtiger’)

Zones: 4-8

Details: Lemon-lime foliage and intense fall color; can be invasive.

Habit: Grows up to 10 feet high and wide.

Care: Full sun to partial shade.

Winter: ‘Van Pelt’s Blue’ Cypress

Photo by Gert Tabak The Netherlands/Getty

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (‘Van Pelt’s Blue’)

Zones: 5-9

Details: Powder-blue foliage and dwarf, compact habit.

Habit: Grows up to 20 feet tall and 7 feet wide.

Care: Full sun.

Winter: ‘Pendula Bruns’ Weeping Serbian Spruce

Photo by DEA/C. SAPPA/Getty

Picea omorika (‘Pendula Bruns’)

Zones: 4-7

Details: Narrow and columnar, with two-tone foliage.

Habit: Grows up to 8 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

Care: Full sun.

The Garden Plan

Illustration by Rodica Prato

Homeowner and landscape architect Barb Safranek worked with her lot’s rocky terrain and stands of mature pines. Using these elements as her backdrop, she added layers of colorful plantings and dwarf evergreens, creating a naturalistic, relaxed style of garden with something to see in all four seasons.

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4 Gorgeous Bulb and Perennial Gardens

Spring Planting

Overplant the bed with these perennials, annuals, and shrubs:

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Bulbs for Moist Soils

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Overplant the bed with these perennials, annuals, and shrubs.

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Bulbs for Dry Shade

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Bulbs for Moist Shade

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Cold-Climate Bulb Tips

If you live in a cold climate, look for hardy, not tender, bulbs for the lowest maintenance. Hardy bulbs can over-winter in the ground, but you should dig up tender bulbs and keep them inside through the cold months.

Buying Tips

The term “bulbs” is also used to describe corms, tubers, and rhizomes, all of which have swollen storage systems. Though bulbs bloom for only one season during the year, they bless our gardens with waves of color, and many propagate quickly for even more delight the following year.

Selecting Bulbs

If you buy from a garden center, make sure the bulbs are stored properly: soft bulbs, such as lilies and fritillaries, should be covered with sawdust, wood shavings, or peat to prevent them from drying out. Bulbs should be firm, free of mold or bruises, with clean skins and intact tunics.

Planting Tips

  • As a general rule, plant bulbs two times deeper than their diameter.
  • Dig the area at least seven days prior to planting to give the soil time to dry out. Break up any clumps.
  • Amend soil for good drainage. Heavy, wet soil benefits from sand; too-light soil will support bulbs better with the addition of the peat.
  • Soak your bulbs in liquid plant food for half an hour before planting.
  • Plant large bulbs several inches apart; plant small bulbs closer together.
  • After planting, water deeply.
  • Deadhead all bulbs after flowering to divert the plant’s energy into the remaining flowers.
  • To insulate the bulbs in winter, cover the bed with at least 4 inches of mulch.

Flower bulbs for year-round pleasure

From there the emphasis moves to the front door where pots of dwarf Iris reticulata ‘Gordon’ and Anemone blanda welcome visitors; followed by buckets of jaunty narcissi ‘Sailboat’ and ‘Spring Dawn’, sky blue Muscari latifolium and daffodils.

Growing bulbs in containers solves the problem of dying foliage because these can be whisked away and replaced with the next star. Our scented pheasant’s eye Narcissus ‘Actaea’ that grows all over the meadow in late spring, finishes just as the cow parsley foams up and covers their dying throes.

I grow dark purple and pink tulips in rows in the cut flower garden where they perform well, benefiting from our hot, dry, late summers and reappear each year, surviving better than in pots.

May sees bluebells naturalised throughout the beds, and alliums and camassia explode into June. July is the month for Madonna, honey and regale lilies in pots, if the lily beetle doesn’t get there first. Squash them if seen.

August welcomes colour from nerine, crocosmia and gladioli. Autumn-flowering bulbs should be ordered now: colchicums and crocus and Cyclamen hederifolium, with their glossy ivy-shaped leaves, which will clothe your winter garden, and the far-sighted should order their hyacinths and narcissi for forcing.

I pot up spring-flowering bulbs in September, selecting galvanised buckets and baths, clay flowerpots and antique containers.

Planting bulbs in pots is like cooking: first install a layer of crocks, then a layer of leaf mould, then a sprinkle of grit. Pack in your bulbs, top with a thick layer of compost and then a final layer of grit to deter slugs and beetles.

I then label and hide the pots from the mice and squirrels with a covering of chicken wire, smug in the knowledge that, for once, I’m ahead of myself.

Type of bulb When to plant Flowers
Narcissi Sept May
Forced narcissi Oct Dec
Autumn crocus Sept Oct
Forced hyacinths Oct Dec
Tulips Oct April/May
Cyclamen Sept Oct
Amaryllis Sept Jan
Snakeshead fritillaries Oct May
Cymbidium orchids Sept Feb
Bluebells March May
Aconites Sept Jan
Alliums Oct Jun
Snowdrops March Feb
Camassia Sept Jun
Dwarf iris Sept mar
Lilies Oct Jul
Anemone blanda Sept Mar
Agapanthus Apr Aug
Muscari Sept April/May
Nerine Aug Sept
Daffodils Sept Mar
Colchicums Aug Sept

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