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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: A Mid-Atlantic 4-Season Garden

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Design a garden that looks good no matter the season. With the right plants, you can fill a Mid-Atlantic yard with multi-season interest.

Shown here in summer, this cottage garden sparkles in every season.

By Julie A. Martens

The wonder—and challenge—of a garden is that it’s constantly changing. What looks stunning this week may falter the next. That makes even a tiny section of a garden an exciting place, like this cozy corner of my cottage garden, above.

‘Morning Light’ miscanthus, an ornamental grass, anchors this corner. By surrounding this grass with plants that peak at different times, I’ve created a four-season garden that sparkles year-round.

My secret for multi-season interest? Include a mix of plant types: spring and summer bulbs, perennials and ornamental grass.

Cutting back ornamental grass shows off ‘Quail’ daffodils & ‘Little Princess’ tulips.

April: Bulbs Steal the Show
In early spring I cut back the ornamental grass before bright-blossom bulbs appear.

‘Quail’ daffodils toss open cheerful flowers that hide short shoots of ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus poking through soil. ‘Little Princess’ tulips play peekaboo, opening blossoms in sunshine and closing when clouds appear.

The short, gray-tinged green shoots are red bee balm, which flowers from late June to August.

‘Globemaster’ giant allium and ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus strike equally tall presences.

May: Giant Alliums and Grass
By late May ‘Globemaster’ giant allium struts its fun form by the ornamental grass.

The alliums add needed height to the corner garden until the ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus grows taller.


‘Gardenview Scarlet’ bee balm and Russian sage

July: A Riot of Perennial Color
Mid-July arrives with perennials and summer bulbs.

Lively blooms skirt the ornamental grass with ruffles of red, purple, orange and gold. Plants include:

  • Red—bee balm (Monarda didyma ‘Gardenview Scarlet’)
  • Purple—anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
  • Orange—tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum ‘Splendens’)
  • Gold—black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
One corner blazes in color with Russian sage, ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod and white wild aster.

September: Fall Fireworks
As autumn arrives, perennial seed heads stand out among flowering perennials.

Purple Russian sage, ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod, white wild aster, and an unknown Rudbeckia fill the corner garden with colorful flowers.

‘Morning Light’ miscanthus

November: Seed Heads Shine
The growing season ends with a flourish of fascinating seed heads.

‘Morning Light’ miscanthus seed heads flutter on fall breezes. I snip these seed heads before seeds ripen to prevent any potential invasive issues.

(Some miscanthus grasses are invasive in the Mid-Atlantic region. Typically, ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus is not; I just remove seed heads as a precaution. Learn more about invasive Miscanthus grass before you plant any in your yard.)

Snow-topped seed heads are like restaurant billboards for birds.

Bee balm and black-eyed Susan sport round seed heads; anise hyssop has upright seed heads, stuffed with seeds goldfinches love. In winter these seed heads provide steady interest, especially when topped with fresh snow.

To view other plants that add multi-season interest to my cottage garden, read this blog about Planting a Garden Path. It includes a video that details plants that create four-season color.