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Color in the garden

Puget Sound garden gray

Frame your views 24/7 and around the calendar so that you fight the gray with color, interesting shapes, and planned succession.

Garden design in the Puget Sound area is unique in the sense that we must always remember how gray it can be here. Literally, if you are not careful, you’ll create a space where the few short summer months of dazzling flowers and blue sky will give way to nine months of depressing void.

This is especially true for those living on the water’s edge. A water view is amazing with ferry boats, the Olympic Mountains, Rainier, blue sky and more. But what happens when the color fades and your view is mostly drab, gray clouds?

Even without a water view, there is a danger in focusing mostly on flowers and then staring from October to May at brown dirt and gray skies.

So what should you do?

Frame your views 24/7 and around the calendar so that you fight the gray with color, interesting shapes, and planned succession.

And, to get on the right track, start with a plan for January. We can discuss in other blogs other months, however, if you focus on January first, the rest will be much easier. Why January? Because that is the month to get your structure in place. What you look at in the deepest part of our Puget Sound winters will hold up the other 11 months.

First, put in your evergreen trees and shrubs. These will be your green base that will never quit – you’ll see them all year long and they’ll provide the antidote to drab, rainy, dull days. Next, design in the deciduous trees and shrubs. Of course, consider their flower colors, but for January, you are paying attention to their stems and limbs. Consider a Filbert for its twisty awesomeness, or choose a Dogwood with stunning red or yellow bark. Once these are all planned, and the design is balanced, then decide on your ground covers. These too can last 12 months. Remember, Mother Nature does not like bare soil, and either should you – so cover that ground with green (many ground covers will also flower at some point in the year). Okay, now the base is in … finally, think about those winter flowering plants – places to pop some color in the garden to look brilliant among all that structure you’ve created, such as Hellebores, Witch Hazel, and “very” early bulbs.

These Dan Hinkley Hellebores bring color into the winter garden.

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