“Any Fool Can Make A Spring Garden”
We love our spring gardens, possibly our favorites, and they are easy to succeed at. But gardens make transitions, and our spring turns to summer very soon!
The spring garden gets a lot of extra help. Springtime elevates our moods, and we are all invested in the spring garden. Bulbs are rising, and 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.
Where the Spring-Summer Transition Happens First
We garden in Hardiness Zone 10, in coastal South Florida. Every year, everything happens to our gardens first. Our plants experience seasonal transitions before any other plants in North America. It is April as I write, and spring is done. The pool is the place to be; we dig first, then cool off. Early risers, anyway; we are digging earlier as warm weather progresses.
Our spring has been cooler for longer; plumeria, gardenia, and magnolia are all in full flower, and we expect to see their blooms last later this year. We are still eating our own lettuce and tomatoes. We planted the all-year Everglades tomato and are eager to see what it produces in the summer. (It is the ancestor of the Everglades tomato that we believe traveled to Europe in the early days of exploration, and it started all that Italian sauce we love!)
The bugs never quit in our climate, but summer with our humid weather is their absolute favorite!
Spring Turns To Summer-Make a Successful Transition
The weather warms up, and that fresh, light spring green that we all look forward to in late winter is gone.
We need to think a little harder as the garden transitions and spring turns to summer. It’s time to make transitions of our own. We need to replace the bulbs and blossoms which are gone. We can take six steps right now to enhance the 12-month appeal of our gardens.
Adding these features will fill in the inevitable ebbs and flows of seasonally flowering plants.
- Always include evergreens
- Use multi–season perennials
- Include summer blooming bulbs
- Add transitional plants
- Containers add height and cover empty spots
- 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 remarkably 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.
Flowers For The Long Cold Winters
If you can’t go to the islands, you go to the indoor Flower Show or the indoor garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner 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 Rembrandt’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 we got sentimental about the gardens. We treated each one as if we would grow old in it despite knowing 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 a fun and interesting challenge to the mind and the body. It is work, and the garden is worthwhile if it is satisfying whenever we visit it. We don’t want to look at the spot; it was bedecked by tulips last week, and today, it is 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 Holly, Rhododendron, Boxwood, and Juniper.
They are large, substantial, spring-blooming, and with dense, dark green foliage, the rhodendron serves as an evergreen background to beds and borders.
Boxwood will serve a similar purpose, a green border or background to colorful flowers or foliage plants.
Juniper and Arborvitae
It will provide height to the beds and borders.
Depending on your needs, many shapes are available: pyramidal, spreading, open, prostrate, creeping, mounded, and weeping. All in green all 12 months of the year, wherever you live.
Evergreens in Garden Borders And Beds
Segment long beds and borders with evergreens or large shrubs; as the flowering plants ebb and flow, there will always be symmetry and interest.
Step 2. Long Blooming Perennials
Perennial plants are those which live in the garden for several years and bloom for us each year. Those with a long bloom period are a great benefit if you like flowers.
Here are some examples
Roses- There is probably no plant that signifies summer’s bounty better than the rose. Roses can fill the garden with color from spring to fall, and the rose is the birthday flower for the month of June.
Consider the Knockout rose if you are new to roses or need a low-maintenance version. It requires minimal care, has many blooms, is disease resistant, and is dense growing. In our garden area, roses, in general, are difficult, but in Central Florida, we found the Knockout variety more resistant to humidity than other roses.
Our Trouble With Roses
There are roses in South Florida, on our east coast. With the benefit of the Gulf Stream, some gardeners are successful. On our west coast, we see a few, but not many. Our Master Gardener group operates a Display Garden to give the public some ideas, and we have a few. We also operate an annual series of garden lectures in Naples, our coastal town. One of our popular speakers explains it this way. He says,
“The worst thing that can happen to you is that you plant a rose accidentally in exactly the perfect place, and it thrives. Then you will waste years of your life planting them everywhere and fail
Lavender, a valued companion for roses, is a bloomer in May and beyond. With beauty and wonderful scent, it makes a beautiful bed or edging plant. Consider these varieties:
Mediterranean Lavender is the lavender our imagination conjures up, especially as we plan a little trip. These varieties should be cold hardy in zones 8-9 and bloom from spring and, depending on variety, summer to fall. Check the varieties; they vary as to features, including scent quality.
English Lavender, you should find later bloomers in this group. It is one of the plants that most bring to mind the English Arts and Crafts garden. Consider these two varieties, Munstead is the tallest, and Hidcote is more compact and makes an edging. (Yes, they are named for famous gardens you would like to see.)
Daylilies provide constantly sequential color and will also perform for you as a groundcover in sunny places where turf will not grow.
Step 3. Include Summer Blooming Bulbs
Summer bulbs come in great variety and sizes, 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, 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 through summer. Consider some of these:
- Russian Sage-10 weeks of color
- Coneflower-all season
- Salvia-constant color, find many sizes and colors in both annual and perennial varieties. Pick what suits you.
- Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’-early to late summer
Step 5. Using Containers in The Garden
Containers add height, color, and a focal point anywhere you would like to draw attention. We use them in places like porches and patios, entrances, and exits, but sometimes, a plant raised up in a container is just the solution to a faded spot inside the garden bed.
Step 6. Garden Ornament
If it adds interest and makes a statement about the way you enjoy the garden, why not? Use something interesting or that compliments its surroundings to draw you further into the garden. Give visitors a reason to move on.
The Edible Garden
Things are changing here. For us, some vegetables will be exiting the garden until next fall. We are still eating lettuce, tomatoes, and all of our herbs. But as summer heats up and gets wet, some of them will not survive.
Temperate climate edible gardens are progressing as plants that started in spring move closer to production. Some points to remember are:
- Thin seedlings.
- Plant tomatoes deeply in the soil to get the maximum root power
- Water your new plants
The new plants you added in spring are still the highest priority plants for water; they are not yet rooted and need help for a fruitful start. Water deeply using soaker hoses, drip systems, and sprinklers. Deep and slow watering is most effective and should take between 10 and 30 minutes per section.
I like reading about Hesiod, who wrote poetry and about gardening around 750 BC. We enjoy better tools, but the principles 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,
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 northeast 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 that 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.
Flowering Trees-two lists one for temperate climates and one for tropical locales.