The Four-Season Garden

Saturday, September 30th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall is for planting. Make the most of the nice fall weather and plant trees, shrubs, ground covers and bulbs now during the fall planting season.
    • Cover crops should be planted in the garden as soon as you pull out summer crops. They will feed the soil and prevent erosion over the winter.
    • Replace tired petunias with bright pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and stock for garden color this fall and winter.
    • If your bearded iris blooms were sparse this year or the plants are more than 4 years old, now is the time to divide and replant them. Mix some bone meal into the soil, and plant the rhizomes just beneath the soil surface.
    • Chrysanthemums are the brightest flowers for the fall garden. Plant some now.

The Four-Season Garden

Gardens can be beautiful in all four seasons, not just spring and summer. By choosing trees and shrubs with interesting fall and winter leaves and bark, you can make your landscape attractive year-round.

Seasonal change is vital to a four-season garden. Brilliant fall foliage and berries are just as important as stunning spring blossoms. Plants that offer an interesting aspect in more than one season are especially important in small gardens.

Japanese maple trees turn a variety of reds and burgundy shades in the fall. Their autumn foliage is a glowing contrast against evergreens and faded perennials. These trees are also attractive in winter with interesting branch patterns, and in some varieties, colorful bark.

Heavenly bamboo is another multi-season plant. It is upright and evergreen, lending a graceful texture to the garden. In the spring it has white flowers which turn to red berries that hang on through the winter and attract migrating birds. Its bright red fall foliage is a colorful accent.

Ornamental grasses add interest to a garden at any time of year. Fall foliage and colorful plumes, with fuzzy seed heads that rustle in the slightest breeze, provide an attractive contrast to evergreens and brightly-colored shrubs. Use them as accent plants where their golden foliage can shine in the winter months. Feather Reed Gras, with its tall, stately plumes, is particularly striking.

Colorful fruits and berries also brighten the colder months. There are many trees and shrubs to choose from. Cotoneaster, barberry, pyracantha and holly are outstanding shrubs. Strawberry tree produces bright red berries throughout the year. Crabapples, hawthorn trees and persimmons have colorful fruit that hangs on after the leaves have fallen.

Many trees have interesting bark. Birch and alder trees have white bark. The bark on Paper birch is chalk white. Sycamores have brown and white flaking bark, Trident maple has peeling bark in gray, orange and brown, while Paperbark maple has peeling cinnamon bark. Crape myrtle trees also have peeling, cinnamon-colored bark, and few trees have more beautiful bark than our native madrones.

‘Sango Kaku’ Japanese maple is striking in winter with coral-orange-red stems and redtwig dogwood has bright red branches. Willow trees have bright yellow branches that stand out in the winter landscape.

Some trees have attractive winter silhouettes. Dogwood trees have a layered branching pattern that is very decorative in winter. Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick has fantastically gnarled and twisted branches that are a real curiosity. Of course oak trees are some of the most wonderful trees to enjoy in the winter, with their picturesque, twisted branches.

Try to design your landscape with an artist’s eye, blending fall colors and contrasting patterns of leaves and branches to make yours a four-season garden.