garden transitions-spring turns to summer

March 19, 2024

The garden is in transition as spring turns to summer. The spring garden gets plenty of help. Bulbs are rising, we cheer every daffodil as it breaks the earth. It’s the best season for flowering trees. Who goes to the Washington Mall for the evergreens? A lot of gardeners say that “any fool can make a spring garden.” They mean that it’s easy to look good as winter transitions to spring. But the transition in the garden in which spring turns to summer is a little more complicated.

Spring Turns To Summer

The weather warms up and that fresh light spring green, that we anticipated in late winter is gone.

As the garden transitions and spring turns to summer, we need to think a little harder. It’s time to make transitions of our own. We need to replace the bulbs and blossoms which are gone. There are 6 steps we can take right now to enhance the appeal of our gardens.

  1. Always include evergreens
  2. Use multiseason perennials
  3. Include summer blooming bulbs
  4. Add transitional plants
  5. Containers add height and cover empty spots
  6. Consider garden decor for interest

Our Locations Affect Our Perspective

Growing up in a home of New England gardeners I learned to celebrate the tiny snowdrops rising while the snow was still on the ground. Putting plants to bed for the winter was time-consuming. But of course, while the plants rested, so did the bugs!

Now we are South Florida gardeners and everything is upside down. Springtime starts in November when we plant “summer annuals and summer vegetables.” And the bugs never rest!

We gardeners, everywhere, all deal with the same summer, heat, storms, and humidity. Places like Boston with a long American history of beautiful gardens can be pretty humid. South Florida has the same issues, just more extreme and for a much longer time. And the bugs never rest!

As New Englanders, we loved to head for the Caribbean in February in March, when winter felt as if it would never end.

If you can’t go to the islands, you go to the indoor Flower Show or the indoor garden at the Isabella Stewart Museum, always a respite on a frozen weekend. Long ago, our mother packed the car with the kids and took us to the Gardner to see art and covered gardens. Today, this makes me one of a dwindling number of people in the world today to have actually laid eyes on Rembrant’s “Storm On The Sea of Galilee”.

(“Storm on the Sea of Galilee” was/is Rembrant’s only known seascape, stolen in 1990 it has never been seen again.)

The charms of snow at Christmas faded away in mid-winter. For Florida gardeners, it’s September or October when it is all just too much and we long for a local tomato. ( Or any vegetable not bred to travel!)

Planning The Garden For All Year-Make The Transitions

In our family, we have had gardens in a lot of climates. We always knew that the houses we bought needed to be investments but the gardens we got sentimental about. We treated each one as if we would grow old in it, despite the fact that we knew better!

I think that planning a garden to be lovely to wander in with scent and visual appeal all year is a lot like getting a meal on the table with everything finished at the same time. It takes thought, anybody can cook a roast but a roast with all its side dishes at the same time; that’s a success. Same with the garden.

What We All Want From Our Gardens

Gardening is fun, and interesting-a challenge to the mind and the body. It is work and the garden is worthwhile if it is satisfying whenever visit it. We don’t want to look at the spot, last week bedecked by tulips and today filled with yellowing foliage. We strive for something wonderful and memorable in each season.

That’s the challenge; that’s the fun.

Some Help As The Garden Makes The Spring To Summer Transition

Step 1. Always Include Evergreens

Evergreens provide structure, stability and a sense of continuity in the garden. They provide the perfect backdrop for color from any source, bulbs, shrubs, perennials etc.

They are available from many sources both broad-leafed and coniferous. Examples of plants to consider are Oak, Holly, Rhododendron, Boxwood and Juniper.

  • Rhododendron-Upright, spring-blooming and with dark leaves
  • Boxwood offers handsome color and is shapable
  • Juniper and Arborvitae offer upright shapes
  • Depending on your needs a very broad range of shapes are available, pyramidal, spreading, open, prostrate, creeping, mounded, weeping. All in green all 12 months of the year. wherever you live

Step 2. Long Blooming Perennials

Perennial plants are those which live in the garden for several years and bloom for us each year. If you like flowers those with a long bloom period are a great benefit.

Here are some examples

  • Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam, early summer-late fall
  • Russian Sage-about 10 weeks
  • Coneflower-all season
  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy
  • Hemerocallis (Daylily)
  • Salvia

Step 3. Include Summer Blooming Bulbs

Agapanthus in Bloom, they will show up as the garden transitions from spring into summer.
Agapanthus in Bloom

Summer bulbs come in great variety and size, they add interest, through shape and color to the garden and they do it with very little effort on our part. We just plant them usually in spring. They also allow the summer garden to extend itself beyond the normal plants of its hardiness zone.

We visited water gardens at Blenheim Palace where the gardeners added huge pots of Canna lilies with tropical flair through the garden. We had coffee on a patio and watched tame pheasants walk between the tables and viewed tropical flowers in England’s chill September drizzle.

In temperate climates, you can add tropical bulbs like Agapanthus, Elephant Ears, or Caladiums in pots or directly in the soil. You can store the bulbs over the winter or bring plants indoors. Near the end is a link to more information.

Step 4. Add Transitional Plants

In this category, we are hunting for blooms, and scents to start in later spring and work thorough summer.

  • Roses, try the shrub varieties that bloom in spring. In Zone 9b we had good luck with the easy-to-grow Knockout series of roses. They are a great choice if you like the mounded shape and are concerned that other roses may be more work than you can commit to.
  • Daylillies, offer constant color and can be used in the planting beds, but also perform as ground covers in sunny areas such as slopes where turf is not an option.
  • Lavender-we love a pot of lavender for appearance and scent but they don’t love our climate. Lavender, for us, is an occasional treat. In cooler areas try the early blooming English varieties such as Hidcote or the later blooming Mediterranean type like Lavender du Provence. Once you add scented plants to the garden you will want more.

Step 5. Using Containers in The Garden

Containers add height, color and a focal point anywhere you would like to draw attention.

Step 6. Garden Ornament

If it adds interest, makes a statement about the way you enjoy the garden, why not? Use something interesting or which compliments its surrounding to draw you forward, futher into the garden. Give visitors a reason to move on.

Garden Transitions-Summary

I like reading about Hesiod who wrote poetry and about gardening in around 750 BC. We enjoy better tools but the principals are the same. Transitions and seasonality are still just as important. He wrote about the stars moving seasonally throughout the sky. A poet, he enjoyed the beauty of the environment but as a farmer, he used the stars to tell him when to plant and harvest.

“Pleiades rising in the dawning sky,

Harvest is nigh,

Pleiades setting in the waning night,

Plowing is right,

Forty days and nights in the turning year,

They disappear,

When they shine again in the morning shade,

Sharpen your blade.

Hesiod- a gardener worth listening to!

(The Pleiades refers to an open star cluster in the North East of the Constellation Taurus. In Greek mythology it refers to the seven sisters. Many cultures have like stories.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

What’s important are stars, climate, time and life cycle. Things will bloom when they bloom, we just need to make the most of it. We are all taking our place in a long tradition.


Here are some things I read or wrote which might be useful.

This is called “Aspects of Seasonality” it’s from the Oxford Journal of Experimental Botany, If you like gardening, history, or poetry you may like it

This link will take you to your County Extension Service. it is the most local way to get the best research from your own state Agricultural University. In our community, we are Volunteer Master Gardeners and this is the system we work through.

Summer Blooming Bulbs

How to Blend Annual Bedding Plants in the Garden

Flowering Trees-two lists one for temperate climates and one for tropical locales.