My most vivid childhood memories of my mother’s garden are of lupines, irises, the rockery behind the gate, the blossoms on the apple tree, the lilac trees, one white and one purple, and the rhubarb at the end of the garden near my sand pit.
From my swing I could see the whole garden.
Now, while enjoying my own Virginia creeper vine as it turns red in the fall, I recall my mother sharing with me the sadness she experienced when she arrived home one day to find that my grandfather had ripped the creeper off the back of the house.
Wherever I have lived, it has always been important to me that the indoors and the outdoors flow together. Here, I have had larger windows installed to enable me to enjoy my garden from the rooms where I spend the most time. Even if I cannot be outdoors, I am visually connected to nature.
My beach cottage came with an English-style garden which I found most appealing. On that June day nine years ago, I had no idea that my total ignorance of plants and gardening in the Pacific Northwest would soon change dramatically.
Childhood memories run deep. Soon I was totally immersed in studying perennial gardening, and the more I learned the more my passion grew. I became a compulsive plant collector.
Building a waterfall, pond and stream, adding more spring flowers and shrubs as well as some later blooming perennials and shrubs were my first priorities. This was quickly followed by the removal of the lawn so that more interesting design features such as patios, paths, arbors and beds could be installed.
It is fortunate that many years ago the original owner of my property planted a cedar hedge and trees around and near the property perimeter that are now mature. This is a rather small, but private, space referred to by some as a secret garden. From my perspective a garden that is so welcoming it invites visitors to enter, explore, linger, and relax has achieved its purpose.
Trees and shrubs provide year-round interest and benefits. The pastel hues of new spring leaves along with spring blooms confirm the arrival of a new season.
The heavier leaf canopies of summer provide shade and protection for plants, wildlife and people. In fall, berries, acorns and fruit provide sustenance for wildlife; the varied hues of autumn leaves impart great pleasure; and the fallen leaves add nutrients to the soil and the compost pile.
In winter the structural shapes of trees and shrubs provide form and create the bones around which we build our gardens.
Perennial seed heads left in place throughout the winter provide food for birds and interesting forms for nature to decorate with frost and snow.
Berries provide welcome color on many shrubs. Nothing brightens my day more than a flock of birds arriving to feast on the bounty of my garden or to bathe in the stream.
Flowering plants, vines and ornamental grasses provide changing color and texture throughout the seasons.
Native trees, plants and shrubs are great additions to the garden as they are already adapted to our climate, and thrive with less care and water than non-natives. Be sure they are purchased from a reputable source and not removed from the wild.
The manner in which patios, paths, seating, bird feeders, bird baths, other water features, and garden art are positioned plays an important role in how our gardens look in all seasons.
A successful garden is never complete or static – it is always evolving as the seasons and the years progress. I encourage you to continue exploring new ideas and trying new plants, while still incorporating old favorites.
Here are a few of my favorite seasonal plant suggestions to start you on your year-round gardening journey. Plants that have cultivars that bloom during different months are indicated with an asterisk.
December: Red Twigged Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), Blue Fescue Festuca glauca), Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger), Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata), Mugo Pine(Pinus mugo), Pink Viburnum (Viburnum x bodnatense ‘Dawn’).
Carol Fuegi’s motto is ‘There is always room for more plants.’ Her other community projects include animal rescue (PAWS).
She is a widely published nature and wildlife photographer.