A couple of years ago we created new flower beds in front of our house, first bordering the terrace and then the parterres centre stage, and I was pleased to be able to ask for advice and ideas from my amazing and knowledgeable readers. You can see their suggestions here and here. I’m sometimes asked about how to maintain garden interest through the seasons , and while I don’t claim to be an expert, I’m happy to share what works here in Normandy.
The beds are now three to four years on and the plants have matured, and although it is far from perfect, I thought you’d like to see how we’ve worked out some seasonal interest and what has worked best. The framework remains during the whole year of the house in the background, draped in wisteria, and the deep beds either side of the terrace and then the four parterres. The hero plants are always supported by smaller space fillers such as Jacob’s ladder, Cerinthus, herbs such as sage, thyme and rosemary and small clumps of variegated lamium.
The main structure of the garden shows up clearly in the winter, when the leaves are absent. Roses are present on the house facade, in the terrace beds and also centre to each of the parterres where I planted the weeping rose White Dorothy.
The first thing to happen in the garden are the daffodils, planted in the lawn, and still in flower when the magnolia stellata come into bloom either side of the terrace steps.
We are still in Spring and it is the time for the wisteria to bloom, while white tulips and the tall white alliums appear in the parterres, followed closely by the blue Nigella, tall stately irises, the blue Jacobs ladder and the white peonies.
Summer gets into full swing now and my favourite flowers come into play, namely the roses and the foxgloves. I love the way that foxgloves are slightly unruly, and follow their own rules, often popping up in unexpected places but not performing where I intended.
The roses are still going strong when the big white annabel hydrangeas open up and take center stage for over a month. In fact they should last through to the autumn, but last year my hydrangeas were burnt by the sunshine despite watering.
My final stars are of course the dahlias, with the café au lait still a firm favourite. They arrive accompanied by japanese anemones and some small, carefully contained michaelmas daisies.
As we work our way through the fall, the garden looks more relaxed, or should I say dishevelled, but I don’t mind, I love this season when the flowers are giving us their last parting blooms.
Back to winter and the time for rest and reflection. A good mulch on the garden, and the taking of a few notes on what to move or divide for the next year. Gardeners like nothing more than sharing and hearing what works in other parts of the world. If you have designed your garden to give all year interest, I’d love to hear which plants work best for you.