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Northwest Gardening: Planting Waves of Color

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Extend the blooming season in your garden. Combine clematis with shrubs, hellebores with summer perennials, and spring bulbs with trees and shrubs.

white-flowered clematis vine growing on burgundy Japanese maple

By Marianne Binetti

If you want more than one season of bloom in your garden, create some waves with splashes of color in two different seasons. The secret is to mix early bloomers with plants that peak later on.

Mix clematis with shrubs. One of my favorite summer scenes is when clematis blooms within the supporting framework of a tree or shrub. The burgundy foliage of a grafted Japanese maple, above, supports a dwarf ‘Sieboldii’ clematis featuring inner sepals that echo the dark-maple leaves. You also can train a large flowering Nelly Moser clematis up a sturdy nandina (a.k.a. heavenly bamboo), or a purple ‘Jackmanii’ clematis amid the branches of fall flowering rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus).

white snowdrop bulbs and purple crocus blooms close-up

Plant early bulbs under deciduous trees and shrubs. This image shows the base of the same Japanese maple in the first photo, but in February. The foliage of the maple has not yet appeared, so you can see through the bare branches to a welcoming display of snowdrop and crocus bulbs.

white flowers in front of empty urn, with black grass in front

Tip: Buy and plant spring-flowering bulbs in fall. Small bulbs, such as these early bloomers, are easier to bury a few inches into the ground under trees. Most spring-blooming bulbs thrive in the dry, shaded soil beneath trees as they lie dormant in summer. As a bonus the leaves of the Japanese maple appear just in time to screen bulb foliage as it yellows and turns brown.

Add winter-flowering hellebores to a bed of summer perennials. Hellebores are winter-blooming perennials. In this February view you see how the dark evergreen foliage of mondo grass contrasts with the white flowers of my hellebore display. This black-and-white combo provides welcome winter color near the front door.

green leaves, tiny yellow flowers near path, in front of empty pot

Here is the same bed in June. The large leaves of the hellebores help shade the soil and keep weeds down. This makes hellebores, with their fine, ferny foliage, great companions for summer-blooming perennials such as lilies, phlox and yellow corydalis. The lilies and phlox are just beginning to peek above the hellebore foliage and provide more color later in summer.

Tip: I clip off the blooming stalks of my hellebore plants in late May. This stops the aging flowers from dropping so many seeds into the bed. That leaves more room for my summer bloomers instead of an area solid with hellebore seedlings. Removing the spent flowers and old foliage also helps stop the spread of leaf blight on hellebores.

For every season of color there is an opposite season just waiting to be added. Get more inspiration by visiting the Lowe’s garden center in different seasons. This way you’ll find plants to fill in your own color gaps.

Got a successful color wave in your garden? Please share it in the comment section below.

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