Seasonal Color Through Spring Bulbs, Annual Flowers and Winter Greens for Your Landscape All Year Round
Many people who call Minnesota and the Upper Midwest home believe that having color in the garden is only a summer possibility. There are many things you can do to brighten up your living spaces all year.
Early Spring Color
After a long, gray, light deprived winter season, what better way to brighten your garden than by adding some early spring color? There are many choices of colorful annual flowers that will thrive in the early spring. Pansies, unlike their name suggests, are one tough flower. They can survive temperatures dropping to as low as the mid-twenties. Other colorful annuals which can tolerate cool temperatures are Alyssum, Snapdragons and Nemesia to name a few. All of these spring annuals will do well in pots and containers for your deck or patio and can be brought inside if night temperatures are forecast to be lower than about thirty degrees.
There are always questions from people who see colorful tulips, daffodils, and other spring flowering bulbs putting on a gorgeous display in the spring. How can I get flowers like that in my yard? Flowers such as tulips are bulbs that need to be planted in the fall. They are readily available at your local garden center or ordered online starting around September. They are easy to plant and will provide a colorful display in the spring season in your garden beds. You don’t have to be limited to tulips and daffodils, There are other examples of spring flowering bulbs that can be planted in the fall to bloom in the spring, a few of which include allium, hyacinth and crocus.
The choices for summer color are almost limitless, and the new gardener may be somewhat overwhelmed with all the choices. Try to keep it simple and ask someone at your garden center for help. There are so many varieties of annuals available to plant that you may not know where to begin. Start by asking yourself a few questions. Where do I want to plant my annuals? Do I want them in pots for my patio or deck? Do I want them in a ground bed? Are they going to be located in the sun or the shade? Be aware that annuals suitable for sun should get at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. Another consideration for planting your annuals will be how tall and wide the annuals will grow to when they are mature. You do not want tall annuals in the front hiding the shorter ones in back. Color of the annuals is another choice you will need to make. I personally think people get too hung up on color choice and what colors go well together. If you like it, plant it! Have fun with your choices, and know that if you don’t like it this year that you can change it next year.
There are also many blooming tropical plants that will do very well in a sunny spot in your garden all summer long. Many of these tropical flowering plants can be brought inside before winter and do reasonably well in a south facing sunny location in your house or sunroom.
Many “hard core” gardeners consider annuals as being only for beginners. I say winters are too long and life is too short to not enjoy as much color as possible! Summer annuals and tropical flowers provide that instant burst of color in your garden.
After the days start getting shorter and there is a nip in the air, your summer annuals will start to fade. Fortunately, there are options for having colorful flowers in your landscape in the fall season. There are a variety of flowers and plants that bloom in the cooler, short days of fall. Typically, these fall flowers will do better in a pot or container located on your deck or patio. Fall, like spring, is a great time to plant pansies as they love cooler temperatures. Some other good choices for fall color are flowering kale, rudbeckia, mums and asters. Many of these plants will last throughout the fall and survive some freezing temperatures.
Unfortunately, winter is a time where we cannot have blooming flowers outdoors in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. That does not mean we have to forgo color on your patio, deck or garden. There are a wide variety of winter items you can use to add some color to an otherwise gray and bleak landscape. Spruce tips are great way to add some greenery to your pots or in your garden bed. Adding other things such as red twigged dogwood stems makes a nice contrast to the green color of the spruce tips. Be creative by adding some sprigs of berries and lights to brighten up that pot or landscape bed. Your local garden center has many items to choose and will be happy to assist in your selections. There are also a wide variety of colorful potted blooming plants available at your garden center to place inside your home to brighten up a kitchen window. When all else fails go somewhere where the plants are green and the flowers are blooming. For those of us here in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, a trip to the Como Park Conservatory is always a good option. If that doesn’t satisfy your thirst for color, maybe a warm winter getaway to Florida, California, or Hawaii will make the winter go by a little quicker. You may even get some ideas for your garden.
By Jeff Farrington, Seasonal Color Manager