By Eric Barrett
Every gardener wants year-round interest in the landscape. Annuals are tough work. Spring blooming shrubs are nice, but they sure don’t last long.
The solution? Making a plan. Don’t just expect year round-interest. All it takes is one piece of paper and your understanding of what blooms in your landscape, when and how long.
When reviewing a blooming chart for the garden, I tend to limit the list to perennials, shrubs and trees. These are the permanent additions to the landscape which will have some kind of visual impact through the year.
Don’t let the word blooming fool you. Try to think of blooming as just that — visual impact. Don’t simply relate blooming to the flowering aspect of a plant. This visual impact could include ornamental effects, such as branching habit, texture, bark color, scent, foliage or fruit that stays on the plant into the winter months.
The purpose of a blooming chart is to take inventory of what is already in the landscape to ensure year-round enjoyment of the tireless efforts during the busiest times of the year. Once inventory is taken, the “blank spots” are easily identified and the search can begin to fill those spots with something that has a visual impact in your landscape. It’s a good excuse to head to the local garden center when you’re finished.
Often misused and under-utilized plants are flowering shrubs, especially hydrangeas, which have extended blooming periods. Oakleaf hydrangeas even have beautiful red color in the fall and cinnamon-colored bark that peels away, showing off-season interest.
Some plants are worth having, even though the bloom time is short. But location is more important. Plants with a shorter period of visual interest should be planted so they can be seen on the way out the door or by guests traveling up the driveway. Scented plants should be placed so the scent is spread when walking by or through the plants. There are many more examples to be taken into consideration.
The best way to start a blooming chart is to use a clipboard hanging in the garden shed or garden. Fill it out as best you can now. Update it as the year passes by. The best way to start filling in the holes in the blooming chart is to read the tags as new plants are purchased – and keep the tag. The tag usually says what time of year the plant blooms and if it has any visual impact during the dormant winter months. Add the plant to the chart when you buy it and there you go. Do remember, though, that planting zones may affect the exact time it may be interesting in your area. You can download sample charts and a blank one for your garden at: http://go.osu.edu/bloomchart.