Outdoor Outlook:Time to plot your garden splash of color


Donald Sherbeyn

It’s officially spring. We have prepared our beds, weeded and fed our lawns. It’s finally time to have some fun.

It’s planting season. The redbud and dogwood flowers are fading, the rhododendron and azalea in full bloom. Iris stretching out to welcome the sun and the sweet smell of spring hangs softly in the air.

I thought it would be fun to pass along some of my favorite planting groups for the landscape. Putting together designs with plantings that bloom at the same time, need similar soil and light and have great color contrast in the garden is something I have been doing for more than 15 years. Even after all this time watching nature unfold each spring just amazes me. Here are some of my favorite garden combinations.

Spring time garden

Start with two red peony. Place them side by side about one foot apart. Then wrap them with blue and white iris to create a trim around the peonies alternating colors 2-3 each. Not only will you get to start off every spring with a little patriotic garden firework but the foliage of the iris will help to hold up the peonies. As they mature together the site is spectacular. Using variegated foliage iris can add to the impact of this accent.

Early summer garden

Do you have a Crimson Queen Japanese maple?  Try trimming it with kaleidoscope abelia. Now this one does take a bit more work as the abelia will need to be pruned twice a year but the presence in the garden is well worth it. The red in the Crimson Queen makes a great backdrop to the multi color foliage of the abelia. Add some Candytuft to the front of the abelia and you get a fantastic semi evergreen presence, a white spring flower and another layer to the space.

Have a space out by the road you’re thinking of putting a new garden, or at the end of your driveway? Try this 4th of July garden

Start with a Blue Rose of Sharon about 6′ tall and prune off the lower branching to allow for at least 2-2.5′ of clean main branches then plant seven red and eight white coneflowers around the base of the shrub no closer than 1.5′ from the branching in an alternating pattern. Try the Milkshake for the white and the double scoop raspberry for the red. Tomato soup is also a beautiful red.

Early fall garden

This one is a border that I think is great. Gold band liriope in a row spaced 1′ apart, backed with Autumn joy sedum spaced about 2′ apart. Pair this with a good evergreen backdrop such as the pjm rhododendron or some winter gem boxwood and anchor the edges of the garden with a few small red crape myrtles and you not only get the fantastic fall showcase along the borders but you will get to enjoy a year full of blooms and textures.

Winter garden

This one might be one of my favorite combinations to throw into a landscape design because without fail I will get a phone call or hear about the surprise someone got when they walked out into their garden in the winter. Red camellia japonica ‘Bob Hope’ paired with white Hellebores niger ‘Double Fantasy. Both of these plants like a bit of protection from the elements and both do well in similar soil so care is kept simple.

There are some great colors and textures in the landscape so have some fun this month experimenting with bringing these plantings together to create a great accent in your landscape.

Good luck in your gardens this month.