Landscape Design for Spring Interest, Part 2

See Part 1 of this spring landscape design series to learn about the challenges of early spring gardens, where to place early bloomers in the garden and a discussion about spring-blooming bulbs.

In addition to the usual tulips and daffodils, there are plants that bloom early and bring interest to your garden. As mentioned previously, you’ll want to be sure and site these plants in places where they’ll be appreciated at a time you may not be spending too much time in the garden. Also, keep in mind that after their spring bloom, these plants will mostly be green the rest of the growing season. Rather than simply dotting them around your landscape, a well thought out landscape design will place these plants where they can hold space as the summer progresses but have other plants around them that can become the stars and focus.

Whenever you’re adding new plants to your spring landscape design it is important to take note of the conditions each plant will thrive in. Water requirements and sunlight are usually at the top of the list, and you’ll also want to make sure you plan for the mature height and width of any given plant and give it the space it deserves. If you learn (through a book, a friend or a plant tag) that a plant wants a well-drained soil, pay attention. Those plants will usually only thrive if water drains quickly away from them; they do not like to have wet feet.

Not much of a gardener yourself? That’s where a Landscape Horticulturist can come in. With a deep knowledge of plant material, I can provide you with a list of plants suited to your particular garden location, relative to the amount of sun, water, drainage and space that you have. I will take careful note of where, when and how you do (or want to) use your garden space and make a plan accordingly so your desires are achieved.

A few classic spring bloomers are Candytuft, Basket of Gold Alyssum and Creeping Phlox.

In the photo of the Creeping Phlox you’ll see some white flowers behind it which is Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry, a very xeric groundcover shrub. Note further in that same picture the Red Twig Dogwood in the background. It is another great way to add some texture and color to not only the spring garden, but the winter as well. The dogwood likes some moisture however, so site it accordingly. They usually do well near a canale or downspout where they get more regular watering.

A couple of less common flowers that definitely appreciate good drainage are the Pasque Flower and Pussytoes. They pair nicely, especially in an intimate space where you’ll be able to see them.

The photos of the Pasque Flower in bloom and the one with the seed heads were taken a couple of weeks apart. The seed heads are so attractive it means you’ll have color and interest for a longer season from the one plant.  

For a bigger plant in your garden, consider a Fernbush. It can get large, 4’x4’, and should be placed to the back with room to expand. While its leaves appear delicate, it is very xeric and cold tolerant. It doesn’t bloom until August, but is worth including here because it is the first thing to unfold new leaves in the early spring and provides a lovely pop of bright green at a time when most everything is still wearing its drab winter palette.  

Finally I’d like to include the Canada Red Chokecherry, a small tree. The early white flowers are incredibly fragrant. And a few weeks after its leaves unfurl and after the flowers have faded, it has a surprise in store for you. The green leaves which are now beginning to blend into the green of the rest of your landscape magically turn a muddy red color that makes the tree stand out once again.

So even if you’re a fair weather gardener, more prone to the warm, sun-filled days of June and July, you can carefully place a few things of interest in your spring landscape design to enjoy from key windows, perhaps one where you watch the birds at your feeder.