Garden Smarter: Combos that Pop Year-Round
If you had acreage and a staff of gardeners, you could have a lilac border, and a cherry tree allee, and a potager to indulge all your seasonal favorites. But let’s face it – most Greenlake gardens have room for a bonsaied version of one of these choices.
So given your real estate and time limits, how can you choose what will offer the most visual bang for your buck?
Whether you want a focal point near your front door, or in a patio pot, take your cue from professional plantings at nurseries, restaurants, hotels, and libraries. Those companies don’t want to change out their displays every month, so the designers pick plants that hold their interest over many months, if not all year. You can also find inspiration at the early spring flower shows.
First, you need to fall in love – with foliage. Foliage can be there for you 24/7, while flowers are like the cute counselor at summer camp. And you know what, breeders are making foliage so flamboyant it’s even sexy now.
To earn their spot, these should be evergreen or have excellent winter interest in the form of showy bark or a shapely form. I’ve picked compact varieties for a small garden or container.
- Dwarf conifers, like Cypress Wilma, Chamaecyparis ‘Mops”, Irish Yew, Mugo Pine, Cryptomeria ‘Elegans”
- Low-growing evergreen shrubs like Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath,’ (new pink leaves add color even before the flowers), Hebe variegata, Calluna vulgaris (look for ones which change color like ‘Firefly’ and‘Spring Torch’), Erica carnea varieties, Nandina domestica ‘Firepower,’ Euphorbia hybrids like ‘Ruby Glow’ and ‘Ascot Rainbow’
- Weeping Japanese maples (Acer palmatum)
- Corokia contorta
- Weeping Cedrus deodara ‘Snow Sprite’
- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’
- Yucca ‘Color Guard’
- Phormiums (note: these can be marginally hardy here)
- Vine Maples (Acer circinatum ‘’Pacific Fire’) and Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Beni Kawa’)
- Osier Dogwoods – choose shorties like Cornus sericea‘Arctic Fire’ and kelseyii with flaming bark or plant a big ‘Bud’s Yellow’ or ‘Elegantissima’ if you have space
- Paperbark Maple – Acer griseum – flaky to the max
- Birch (Betula species) – peach-to-white peeling; look for smaller varieties
- Stewartia varieties – like a mosaic of earth tones
- Heucheras – available in a rainbow of choices and frill level, some with showy flowers, some not
- Hellebores – months of winter bloom and handsome leaves
- Sedums – just cool
- Evergreen grasses – Carex hybrids come in green, yellow and variegated and Ophipogon nigrescens (Black mondo grass) brings the sleek drama
The Wisecracking Neighbor:
Perennials with long-term presence: interesting seedheads or structure over the winter
- Allium – showy ornamental onions. The flowers look like baseballs made of stars even after the color fades
- Compact non-evergreen grasses: ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather Reed grass, Pennisetum, hybrids Boutela ‘Blonde Ambition’ (blue grama)
The Eye Candy:
Finally the flowers!
- annuals changed out as needed (the plants you see at the supermarket door)
- long-bloomers like Hellebores, Heaths/Heathers, Echinacea, pansies, violas, perennial geranium ‘Rozanne,’ and coreopsis