Q. I’d like to create a garden with year-around color. Is that possible? — Kit L., Cambria
A. It’s easy to have color in your garden year-around if you think beyond the usual high-maintenance annuals and perennials. Consider the foliage color of trees, shrubs, and vines first. Foliage helps you gain the variety and the effect you desire.
Some foliage provides dramatic color, especially in the fall. Trees such as Chinese pistache, crape myrtle, eastern redbud, Japanese maple, liquidambar, persimmon and scarlet oak are colorful characters in nature’s drama. Japanese barberry, oakleaf hydrangea, and smoke tree are shrubs that change hues as the days shorten.
Winter and early spring blooms grow on trees such as crabapple, dogwood, magnolia, redbud, flowering cherry and plum; and on shrubs such as azalea, viburnum, blue hibiscus, and cassia. Droughttolerant ceanothus, jasmine, lavender, rockrose, rosemary, and salvia are great additions to a color garden. Climbers that show off in late winter/early spring include clematis, Hardenbergia, climbing roses and wisteria.
Summer brings jacaranda trees to full glory in the warmer regions of the county. Shrubs such as fuchsia, gardenia, hydrangea, spirea, and Justicia, as well as low growing plants such as gazania, catmint, lantana, and verbena, put on a show. Vines like bougainvillea, bower vine and passion vine lift your spirits, providing elevated, eye-catching drama.
Looking for shrubs and trees that provide color through several seasons? Cape plumbago, abutilon, germander, oleander, salvia, tree mallow and shrub roses are good long-blooming, low maintenance plants. Perennials such as daylilies, coreopsis, purple coneflower, rudbeckia, statice, alstroemeria, gaura, heuchura, tagetes, flax and grasses are favorite drought-tolerant plants that provide color for months.
Tips for a colorful garden: Plan carefully. Start with trees and work your way down. Know when trees, shrubs, and perennials bloom in your microclimate. Consider green and gray as colors. Make foliage your basic layer. Add complementing colors just as you would in a painting. Lay out your garden carefully to take advantage of natural light, soil, and needs of plants. Plan, plant, sit back, and enjoy the show!