Selecting Landscape Plants
Multi-Season Interest

Sure, flowers are beautiful. They are exactly what most people associate with gardening. In fact, the common term is “flower beds and borders” which seems to disregard all the other points of interest to be found in them.

A simple rule is that, whenever you can find a plant that meets your major design criteria but also adds interest in other ways, you have a bonus. For most of our plants, flowers are the key factor followed a bit behind by foliage color or texture. However, many, many plants will reward us with multiple points of interest.

A. Bark Texture - The bark on certain trees such as the Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), paperbark maple (Acer griseum), several birches (Betula) and others add an interesting touch. Most of these have what is called exfoliating bark which means that small sections fall off revealing other colors below. Bark may also have a textural contrast from smooth, gray bark of the beech to coarse texture of the hickory tree.

B. Fall Color - Fall color is a primary way that many tree and shrub species extend their ornamental season. The dogwoods generally have a show of reddish to purple leaves in the fall. Of course the maples are noted for their displays especially by the sugar maple (Acer saccharrum) and red maple (Acer rubrum) species. Several viburnum (Viburnum) species of shrubs also display good, reddish fall color. There are many more plants with fall color available so do a little research to find ones that fit into your design.

C. Fruit and Seeds - Fruit is yet another way of adding a secondary ornamental display. Hollies (Ilex) may be tops on the list in this category although there are many others including crabapples (Malus), firethorn (Pyracantha), etc. Remember, that to have fruit on certain plants such as the hollies, you will need to have both a male and a female plant in close proximity.

The seed heads of ornamental grasses will extend the season well into and through the winter. For more discussion on this topic, refer to “A Rookie’s Guide to Designing Beds and Borders.”

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

 

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