Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Garden Design Ideas: Spring Vignette

Spring is a time of optimism, reassurance, and resurgence. We all just feel better. Yes it’s the longer days, yes it’s freedom from the oppressive blanket of snow, and we are literally shedding that which has weighed us down: winter jackets, hats, scarves, gloves. The lightness we feel, the spring in our step is partially due to the lack of heavy boots on our feet! But it is also all the new colorful life emerging in the dull brown landscape. Don’t you find yourself cheering them on?

When crocus, snow drops, winter aconitum, and hellebores break dormancy and bloom, those little flecks of color signal the finish line. From an evolutionary standpoint, I imagine we’re all so happy and relieved because we and our little flower friends survived another winter. Yay! Go team!

Or perhaps they are our cheerleaders?

With that in mind, let’s talk about garden design. Knowing that each spring you feel delighted and encouraged by those harbingers of the season, why spread them out, dotted here and there? Why leave them as solitary specks, overwhelmed by the still sleeping landscape. Why not concentrate the earliest bloomers into a spring vignette (or several) placed where you will either pass by them on your way in and out of the house, or an area you can see as you gaze out your window? Why not strategically group them where they will have the greatest impact on your mood?

For a lovely blue and white combination, plant a mix of the small early blooming shrub like the white Korean forsythia and early blooming bulbs like, snow drops (Galanthus nivalis), Scilla siberica, grape hyacinth (Muscari) with hardy perennials such as ajuga ‘Chocolate Chips’ Helleborus ‘Josef Lemper (pure white flower), white bleeding heart, pansies and violas.

By including Candytuft (Iberis), forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica), Virginia Blue Bells (Metensia Viginica), and Blue Lungwart (Pulmonaria 'blue ensign'), your blue and white vignette will transition floriferously into April.

The fragrant spring blooms of Daphne
‘Carol Mackie’ are not the only winning features of this shade tolerant, deer
resistant shrub. The delicate, variegated foliage is an attractive addition to the garden all season long.

If pink is your preference, mix Pieris Variegata with American cranberry, a stunning evergreen ground cover (Vaccinum macrocarpon), with Helleborus ‘Rosemary’ or ‘Ivory Prince.’ The thick rosy foliage of Berginia ‘Baby Doll’ precedes its pink flowers and adds a great texture to not only garden beds but also container plantings. Add Ajuga ‘Pink Lighting,’ pink Primula or creeping Phlox and your vignette will blush with blooms and color all spring long.

Epimediums flower in several different colors: Epimedium x rubrum has not only diminutive, deep pink fairy flowers, but the ruby tinted leaves will add even more color to your early spring garden.

Another early pink option is Jacob’s Ladder ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (Polemonium reptans) because even though later the blooms will be blue, the new spring foliage is a stunning pink.

If high drama and deep purple are more your speed, mix the stunning dark pinkish purple buds of Pieris ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ with the green, near black, white and pink blooms of Helleborus ‘Royal Heritage.’ Add in the dark purple Fritillaria persica and ajuga ‘Black Scallop’ and you will have a sophisticated spring vignette with attitude.

For a more fiery combo, plant Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (a red blooming witch hazel), winter aconite (Eranthis cilicica), Helleborus foetidus 'Gold Bullion', the yellow blooms of perennial Allysum and Lamiastrum ‘Herman’s Pride’ plus the golden foliage of Euphorbia ‘First Blush.’ And of course bulbs like Daffodils 'February Gold' and Daffodils 'Tete a Tete', mixed with tulips like ‘Banja Luka’, ‘Texas Gold’ or ‘Appledorn’ or perhaps some orange Fritillaria imperialis Rubra Maxima.

Although most spring blooming bulbs are planted in the fall, this spring we have a selection of spring blooming bulbs in pots for sale now. Instant gratification! For varieties that are not available now, mark your calendar for Labor Day weekend, which is when our stock of bulbs usually arrives. Or you can join our email list to be reminded.

For a peachy full-sun spot try, Quince (Chaenomeles) with English Daisies (Bellis), Rockcress (Arabis), Helleborus ‘Brandy Wine’, Daffodils 'Delnashaugh', Daffodils 'Parisienne', and Daffodils 'Fragrant Rose'. Sedum are a great full sun choice as well, especially the varieties of sedum and sempervivum that change color in the winter. Right about now you will see bright green leaves emerging from the red or orange winter versions of themselves.

Or what about an all green flowering combo with the pendulous yellow-green flowers of the Spike Winter Hazel shrub (Corylopsis spicata) as a back drop for the green blooms of Helleborus foetidus, Primula polyantha 'Francesca' or Fritillaria 'Ivory Bells'? Add in different shades and textures of green with a variety of ferns.

Or mix and match the colors of your early spring vignette so that it is a raucous explosion of color from March to May. Add an early blooming Magnolia, flowering cherry, or Eastern Red Bud tree to any of these vignettes and you will have a garden of boisterous cheerleaders branding their blooms like pompoms in celebration of spring and survival.

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