Creating and Enjoying the Multi-Season Garden

This week our calendars reminded us that summer has given way to autumn. This is a good time to take stock of your landscape and consider planting perennials, trees, and shrubs that will provide you with multi-season interest. And by that, we don’t mean just color, but also form and texture, movement and even food and shelter for wildlife all year long.

Whether designing a new landscape space or just adding multi-season interest to an existing space, begin by considering structure—the permanent elements that you see year-round such as containers, trellises, bird feeders, and garden art. Structure can portray your personal style and sets the mood for the garden. There’s a natural tendency to select plants that look good in the spring and summer, but don’t neglect to add some plants that also provide seasonal interest in fall and winter. What follows are some perennials, shrubs, and trees that we recommend to add multi-season color, form and textural interest to your gardens and landscapes, and that can be planted now.

Perennials and ornamental grasses fill the spring, summer and fall garden with eye-catching color and the winter garden with interesting textures, forms, and movement. Among the best perennials offering year-round color and texture, we recommend Heuchera (Coral Bells). Available in a wide variety of colors, Heuchera is a North American native whose foliage and flower spikes make it a four-season favorite. Geum, especially, native Prairie Smoke, provides excellent red fall color that continues through the winter. Providing a taller visual element and wildlife support, Echinacea (Coneflower) has attractive flower seed heads that persist through the winter and are a food source for songbirds. Both tall sedums, such as ‘Autumn Fire’ and low growing sedums, provide brilliant flower and foliage colors and textures in the fall, and subdued hues to the winter garden.

Grasses often serve as accents or screens in the spring and summer garden. In fall and, if left standing in the winter garden, grasses provide fabulous texture, color, movement and seed for the birds. Grasses in genus Panicum (native switchgrass), especially the cultivars of native varieties ‘Cheyenne Sky’ and ‘Northwind’, are high on our multi-season list. Also consider Imperata ‘Red Baron’ and native grasses, Andropogon (a.k.a. Big Bluestem or Turkey Foot) and Sporobolis Prairie Dropseed for their beautiful fall and winter color, form and movement.

Evergreen shrubs are by definition excellent plants for the multi-season landscape and are available in a variety of sizes, colors, textures, and architectural forms. Consider conifers, with year-round blue-green foliage. Low growing junipers, like ‘Blue Star‘ or tall conical ‘Baby Blue-eyes‘ spruce contrast nicely with fresh snow. There are conifers with golden foliage, such as Gold Lace Juniper and Chamaecyparis ‘Gold Mop’ that brighten the winter landscape and make excellent accents all year round. Note that placing evergreens with soft needles adjacent to those with stiff needles makes for an attractive contrast.

There are also deciduous shrubs that enhance your landscape with their fall color, or interesting branching architecture, berries or textured bark. Many members of the genus Viburnum offer brilliant fall foliage and wildlife-attracting berries. Deciduous hollies are desirable all year round, but especially in winter when their berries hang on branches like miniature Christmas ornaments. Euonymus, better known as Burning Bush, is synonymous with brilliant red fall color. Hydrangea certainly makes the list of multi-season plants. Their summer blooms, if left on the plant, dry to tan and offer a decorative touch to the winter garden. Also, the leaves of the hydrangea varieties, such as ‘Twist-n-Shout’, turn red, and oakleaf hydrangea turn a rich mahogany color in fall. Physocarpus Ninebark ‘Diablo’ sports rich burgundy leaves all summer and then shows off its attractive peeling bark in the winter.

Trees for all Seasons

Trees provide varied structure in your garden year round. Serviceberry, available in both tree and shrub forms, is a great choice for the multi-season landscape. It flowers profusely in the early spring and its rich green foliage turns orange in the fall, contrasting nicely with its gray bark. Birds love its edible fruit. Redbud trees also flower brightly in the early spring. Heart-shaped leaves turn bright yellow in the fall and its seed pods persist into the winter. Crabapple trees light up the spring landscape with their billowing clouds of flowers. Among the many varieties available The Growing Place has chosen those that are disease resistant and have persistent fruit; that is, fruit that hangs on the tree providing winter interest.

Many varieties of maple trees are well known for their multi-season attributes. The under-appreciated Paperbark Maple bears beautiful dark green leaves in summer. Its leaves turn rich russet in the fall, and all winter long it shows off reddish-orange exfoliating bark.

This is the right time, and with the right plants in their right places, your landscape can be a year-round tapestry of color, form, texture, and movement. We can help you achieve your goals. Visit with our sales staff, or schedule an in-store, or at-home session with a member of our talented landscape design team.

Aurora Location

2000 Montgomery Road,

Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

Naperville Location

25w471 Plank Road,

Naperville, IL 60563

Phone. 630-355-4000

Spring Hours

March 30-June 30

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm

Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: 11am-5pm

Memorial Day Hours

Monday, May 27


Growing for the future with
right plantsĀ in right places.