Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
February, 2012
Regional Report

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Azaleas and snapdragons top my list of favorite springtime combinations.

Planning for Season-Long Color

From early March when the forsythia first bursts into bloom, to mid-November when the last anemone dies back, my garden is a constantly changing display of colors. My goal is to have something in bloom throughout the gardening season. Not only do I enjoy the changing focal points, I know these changes attract lots of bees. When they are busy feeding on nectar and collecting pollen I feel as though I'm doing my part to help support a healthy population of these important pollinators.

Creating vibrant displays of color throughout the growing season is a relatively easy project. You don't need a lot of space to accomplish your goal, just a little advance planning. Continuous color does not mean that everything in the garden is in bloom all at once and all of the time, but that there are enough plants in flower at any given time to create the impression of sustained color throughout the garden from early spring through late fall.

Choose a Variety of Plant Partners
Although perennials are the backbone of my garden, most bloom for only about three weeks. Since my goal is to have something in bloom at all times, I supplement these major players with annuals, biennials, vines, bulbs, and a few flowering shrubs. As a result, I have a collection of plants of varying sizes, shapes, and leaf textures, which I think adds even more interest to the garden. A plus is that most of these plants can be tucked in and around each other, allowing me to pack a surprising number of plants into a small area.

I space plants with different bloom times very closely together. For example, I've planted early-blooming bulbs and forget-me-nots right next to iris, astilbes, and lilies, which camouflage the early-flowering plants as they begin to die back. I also repeat groupings of the same plants throughout the garden to provide a sense of harmony in the landscape. To accomplish this, I usually cluster three to six plants together to make a group, and then place these same groups in several areas around the landscape to create harmonious splashes of color everywhere.

Some of my favorite partnerships include the bold combination of pink and red, shade-loving New Guinea impatiens, which take over my woodland garden in early summer after the spring bulbs are spent. They are perfectly at home with my fern collection, and each group of plants complements the other. For a sunny bed, I've planted wide swaths of bearded iris, Asiatic lilies, and daylilies together, which becomes the mid-summer highlight of my garden. As their blooms begin to fade, attention is drawn to the daisy-like flowers of my rudbeckia, which then becomes the predominant focal point.

Staging the Performance
Rather than planting everything that blooms at the same time in close proximity, I distribute the groups of early-, mid-, and late-season bloomers around the garden. The result is flowers in all parts of the garden every month of the gardening season. These bursts of color also draw the eye throughout the garden, creating the appearance of an uninterrupted expanse of color.

Now that you have some idea of what works in my garden, you can choose your own favorites and create your own garden of continuous bloom.

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