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Planting Trees and Shrubs for Year-Round Interest

Trees and Shrubs for the Four Seasons


Now that the preliminary considerations discussed on Page 1 are out of the way, let's discuss some specific examples of planting trees and shrubs to create year-round interest in a yard.

The Spring Season

By the time winter's over, let's face it: we want color, and we want it fast! Thus the popularity of one of the earliest blooming shrubs, forsythia. Forsythia blooms in early spring, well before many of the other flowering trees and shrubs. For more on forsythia shrubs, please consult the following article:

Forsythia Shrubs

Achieving color on the landscape in mid-spring generally isn't a problem, since there are so many flowering trees and shrubs from which to choose. The following resources provide information on some of the many choices available during this period of floral abundance:

If you plan carefully, late spring needn't take a backseat to April and early May, in terms of color. Lilacs are a long-time favorite that will bring color to the landscape in late spring. To supplement your lilacs, two other plants to consider are mountain laurels and hawthorns. For more information, please consult the following articles:

The Summer Season

In summer, the brilliant spring blooms on trees and shrubs give way to just plain old leaves. It can be a challenge to find any trees and shrubs that will bloom for a significant amount of time during the summer season. In the Southeastern U.S., the long blooming period of crape myrtle trees is a boon to summer landscaping. In the North, your savior is long-blooming rose of sharon, whose flowers conveniently hold off until the second half of the summer. For more information on rose of sharon, please consult the following article:

Rose of Sharon Shrubs

The Fall Season

While floral color reigns triumphant at the beginning of the growing season, at its end it is foliage color that is king. I have collected a number of resources on the best fall foliage trees, including the must-have maples, and the best shrubs and vines for fall color, but here I would like to draw your attention to two plants in particular that are useful -- and overlooked -- in extending the fall foliage season.

I love the exquisite harvest colors of autumn and feel the fall foliage season is too short-lived. To get a jump on the fall foliage display, plant sumac shrubs, which usher in the autumn season well before the maples. Sumac's fall foliage will help bridge the gap between the last rose of sharon bloom and the first hint of color on your maples.

But don't stop there! The best color of the maples will be gone part way through October, so you also need a fall foliage specimen that takes the torch from the maples and carries it a bit closer to the winter season. Oak trees will do just that, albeit usually with less flare than the incomparable maple trees, which I feature in the following photo gallery:

Fall Foliage Pictures

The Winter Season

But alas, despite your best efforts to prolong the fall foliage season, winter will surely come, eventually. What then? What do you have to work with once the trees have dropped their leaves and the spring blooming period is still months away? Indeed, winter poses the greatest challenge to the goal of achieving year-round interest on your landscape.

As remarked above, your choices for color are more limited in winter than in the other seasons. With the exception provided by evergreen trees and shrubs, the winter landscape is largely dominated by the colors, white, grey and brown. That is not to say that you do not have some choices. Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea 'Allemans') has an attractive reddish bark. A patch of fiery red osier dogwood against a backdrop of pristine snow makes for an unforgettable winter scene.

Red osier dogwood and a few other exceptions notwithstanding, the wise designer will think in terms of "form" to provide winter interest, as stated previously. After trees and shrubs have dropped their leaves, leaf-color becomes irrelevant and more attention is drawn to their form and other characteristics, as discussed in my Top 10 list for winter landscapes.

But the form of one particular shrub in the winter yard has elicited many a double-take over the years: namely, Harry Lauder's walking stick. This shrub's other nicknames speak volumes about its form (to be more specific, the form of its branches), for it is also called "corkscrew filbert" and "contorted hazelnut." Its branches contort themselves in every which way, resembing corkscrews. For more information on this curious specimen, please consult the following article:

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick

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