A Plant for all seasons
Updated: Jan 7
IN A SMALL GARDEN plants have to perform well throughout the year to earn their keep. If you plant for all seasons you can extend interest in your garden through even the darkest days of winter.
It’s easy to be seduced by a pretty flower in the garden centre, but it’s worth doing a bit of research before you go as this will help you identify the star performers - the plants that will like your garden's growing conditions and those that will work well in combination with plants you already have. Growing conditions are critical to a plant's health and vigour, so if you're not sure what soil you have, it's worth finding this out before you waste money on plants that won't do well your soil.
Star-performing plants don’t just have beautiful flowers, important though they are, but offer a number of other qualities to continue interest before and after their main flowering period. These include:
stem colour: good stem colour can really light up the garden in winter
buds: are they hairy (like catkins), scaly like a Centaurea or beautifully coloured?
are the spring shoots interesting?
(Picture by Diako1971 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37541122 )
leaf shape and colour – is the plant deciduous or evergreen?
leaf texture – rough, smooth, shiny, hairy?
leaf size - are the leaves large and dramatic/small/serrated/dissected?
does the plant have good autumn colour?
seed-heads - do these retain their shape through the winter or collapse at the first frost?
fruits – are they edible and how long do they stay on the plant?
scent – is the plant scented? If so, at what time of day and during which season?
flowering period – short but sweet, or long and lingering?
Looking at pictures of a plant at different times of the year makes it much easier to see all that it has to offer and when.
As well as the physical properties of the plant, consider also how resilient it is. Is it likely to suffer from slugs and snails? Get diseases? Lose its shape?
Do be choosy; all plants are not created equal, and performance between plants of the same species can vary a lot. The Award of Garden Merit (AGM) given by the RHS is a useful indicator that a plant will do what it says on the tin, but nothing beats getting to know what will do well in your own garden.