❧ Now is the time to consider adding some shrubs or small trees, depending on how much space you have. Look to evergreens (whatever color they may be), interesting bark, or interesting branching. Look for shrubs with multiple seasons of interest, like spring or summer flowers, nice foliage and fall berries.
❧ If you don’t want to lose space to a tree or shrub, use grasses for bulk and height. They won’t offer much in early spring, but they will get you through 3 season.
❧ Don’t focus so much on flowers. Colorful and textural leaves will last a lot longer.
❧ Weave your plants, rather than spacing them. Blend flowers with different flowering seasons, so that there is a progression.
❧ Underplant with bulbs throughout the season. Early spring bulbs fade quickly, but lilies, blackberry lilies, and crocosmia will fill in and surprise you in summer. They won’t even need staking, if mixed in with other plants. These lilies and astilbes have been underplanted so that they weave together.
❧ Start paying attention to what plants look like past their prime. Replace phlox that mildews right after flowering with something like baptisia, that goes from bright blue flowers to rattling seed pods. Attractive seed pods, like on the baptisia, sedum, honesty (lunaria annua), shown at the top of this article, or clematis, or can keep the garden interesting even when the plants are in decline.
❧ Make use of the space under trees and shrubs with spring and fall bulbs and colorful ground covers. New Zealand Brass Buttons (Leptinella squalida), Bronze Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens Atropurpureum) or even Hosta would fit the bill.
❧ Fill in with containers. Pot up seasonal plants and use them to fill in holes in the garden. Move them around as needed or just to mix things up.
❧ Add a few ornaments, pots, benches, or chairs in a similar color. They will instantly give your garden cohesion.
❧ Don’t forget flowering climbers. Nothing grabs the eye like a wave of roses, clematis, or climbing hydrangea.
❧ Both small and large gardens have their challenges, when it comes to keeping things colorful and interesting. In small gardens, there’s a limit to how much you can squeeze in. In large gardens, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Start with one section at a time and then repeat your successes.
One last piece of advice – get rid of problem plants. This is a tough one to follow through on. If a plant is forever struggling, or becoming thuggish, or just underwhelming, rip it out. Why waste space on something you don’t love?