I’ve been wanting to write about garden planning before everything starts sprouting, but needed pictures to help make sense of what I wanted to say. Here in the northwest, it’s a pretty nice day, cloudy, with a few blue patches, no rain and 48 degrees. I hitched up the dogs, grabbed my iPhone and headed out. I still don’t have the nerve to snap pictures of my neighbors yards with a full blown camera, but with an iPhone I can be a bit more discreet. The yards I photographed were examples of what I like about gardens in the winter, but I took the time to crop them so the homes aren’t part of the shot. I'm certainly no authority, just an interested observer who pays attention to what I like and why.
This yard is one of my favorites to walk past. The integration of hardscapes, like the brick path and large rock, are balanced by the year round softness of the heathers and grasses. There’s room to tuck in bulbs and annuals but it’s still a very good looking yard during the wet, cloudy winter.
This is the same yard, showing the beautiful stone wall at the driveway. This picture is to the right of the previous one.
This is a very modest yard but I like how its careful planting adds interest and depth to the small area. The anchors of the larger evergreens in the background and the grasses are a nice contrast to the large boulders. A bit of ground cover keeps it from being too much dirt and still leaves lots of room for perennials and annuals in a few months.
Corner lots are always intriguing because they are seen from all sides and usually cover a lot of ground. This recently re-landscaped yard incorporates a stone wall that is unusual because it faces into the yard due to the slope of the lot. The small topiary tree, ferns and rocks add interest while walking by. I’m anxious to see what colors spring will bring.
As spring approaches, it’s the perfect time to take a walk around your yard and neighborhood. Look closely at what works and what doesn’t. Several yards around here look like muddy messes because there are no shrubs. My mother used to call the shrubs and trees the ‘bones’ of the garden. You get the bones in place and plant the smaller perennials, annuals and bulbs around them to complement and add bits of contrast. Of course the rocks act as bones also.
I chose this one corner of my own yard to explain what I mean. The fence is a hardscape, which acts as the background to the rest of the corner. The dark green Arborvitaes on the right add privacy and a great dark contrasting color. The heavenly bamboo up against the fence not only softens the fence but works well for year round interest. The Coral Bark Maple tree is, I think, the perfect year round tree. It stays relatively small, its wonderful color adds interest, and when it leafs out it provides a dappled shade for the rest of the garden. The other plants add textural interest, as well as various colors during their bloom time. I’ve added a number of bulbs to surprise us in the spring and may add an annual or two if something strikes my fancy.
Don’t think for a minute that my whole yard is this organized. It’s constantly evolving due to growth, death and the unpredictability of plants that aren’t happy where I’ve placed them. It’s an ever-changing world out there and that can be the frustrating part of gardening, but also the pleasure as you search for your next favorite plant.
One last thing:
I have to always remind myself not to buy every luscious, colorful, awe-inspiring plant when the garden centers tempt us very very soon. Those first beautiful perennials are like little harlots calling to our green thumbs. But we must remember that their lovely blooms of color will only last a few weeks. Don’t buy all of your perennials at once. Choose a couple of early ones, then allow yourself to be lured again a few weeks later with the next batch of beauties. If we plan like this, we’ll be rewarded with a full season of color. Remember to add a few annuals too; their color will last all summer. They’re great for tucking in next to shrubs, hiding wilted perennials and are perfect for covering the last stalks of spent bulbs. We have to wait until summer to find them at the nursery, so don’t forget to save a few spots for them.
So go take a walk and then let the garden season begin!