Plan now for a garden that looks good 365 days a year.

By Debbie Wolfe
April 29, 2021
Advertisement

A year-round garden ensures your home is surrounded by color and interest through all four seasons. Believe it or not, it is possible to have a lovely garden even in the winter, no matter where you live. Although planting the garden is not the most challenging part, planning a four-season garden requires a bit of thinking and organization. Jim Putnam, garden pro and creator of HortTube, an instructional gardening series on YouTube, shares his expert advice on how to grow a garden that blooms year round.

Visit Gardens and Nurseries Throughout the Year

Before you prep a garden bed or purchase a plant, you need to do your research. “I really think people should take time looking at public gardens and local private gardens for ideas that work in their specific area,” suggests Putnam. An easy way to begin your research is to choose appropriate plants for your region. Native plants, in particular, are good options because they are conditioned to survive in your area. Knowing what plants are hardy in your region will allow you to combine perennials, annuals, and container plantings for four-season color.

Visit garden centers and gardens at different times of the year to get a sense of blooming schedules, foliage color, and what particular plants you are interested in look like all year round.

Survey Your Garden

Just because the plants will grow in your region doesn’t mean they will thrive in your particular garden. To be successful, you will need to know what direction your garden faces, how wet or dry the soil is, how much sun it gets during all seasons of the year, and if animals or pests will be an issue. Once you answer these questions, you can choose the appropriate plants that will thrive in your yard.

Don’t Forget the Foliage

“Unfortunately, some people only define a year-round garden with flowers,” explains Putnam. Although flowers are lovely, they need a pretty backdrop. “We can use stem color, fall foliage, conifers, and plant structure to create beautiful spaces as well,” says Putnam. This is particularly important for those who garden in areas that have harsher winters. However, when selecting plants for background texture and winter hardiness, you do not have to limit yourself to evergreens. 

“I actually think that we spend way too much time and thought on making sure the garden is evergreen,” says Putnam, “Many plants that lose their leaves offer stem color, early spring flowering, and some even have contorted stems or exfoliating bark that are beautiful in the winter landscape.”

There are many foliage colors throughout the year that offer plenty of interest and texture to your garden. “The use of foliage colors in chartreuse, purple, and shades of green in the garden is as good as flowers,” says Putnam.

Invest in Perennials

Perennials are more expensive than annuals. However, they will pay off in the long run because they come back year after year with proper maintenance. Perennials are perfect for creating the backbone of your garden. You can add more color and interest by filling in with annuals. Many perennials bloom more than once or have an extended bloom season, such as everblooming daylilies, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, salvias, and more. Plant a variety of things that will bloom at different times. This will ensure that you have plenty of pretty flowers mixed in with your colorful foliage for most of the year.

Keep Up With Maintenance

Good gardening practices such as mulching, weeding, watering, and fertilizing go a long way in helping your garden reach its potential. “Mulch is the most important component to a healthy landscape,” says Putnam, “It feeds the plants as it breaks down, it keeps the roots moist, it suppresses weeds, it cools in the summer and warms in the winter.”

Also, don’t be afraid to let some spent flowers stay on. “Spent flowers are a super way to add color and interest in the winter garden,” says Putnam, “Also, spent flowers and grasses offer food and cover for birds and overwintering pollinators."