In Colorado, it typically takes a good three years for a new landscape to take off. At that point, you may notice aspects of the garden that need addressing. Examples include coloration and bloom times, as well as hardiness, sunlight, and maintenance concerns.
Coloration. How’s the color balance in your garden, especially in the spring, when plants often don’t bloom as long as they do later in the season? In early- to mid-spring, for instance, I noticed that my front yard was heavy with purples, blues, and whites, thanks to little Trudy catmint (purple), blue avena grass, Veronica pectinata (blue), Pawnee Buttes sand cherry, and serviceberries (whites). I realized that I needed to add some pops of brighter colors, such as yellows and reds. So I planted Angelina sedum (yellow) in a few strategic spots. I also planted fuchsia and coral tulip bulbs. Just a few vivid plants make the garden more exciting.
Bloom Times. Bulbs are great fillers in early and mid-spring, when other plants are just beginning to wake up. Fortunately, Colorado has an ideal climate for most bulbs. Add some Corydalis solida, daffodils, dwarf iris, tulips or allium, to name just a few. I’ve discovered that purple sensations alliums, which bloom during the second and third weeks of May in Fort Collins, deliver tall lollipops of violet-purple after most tulips have faded. Pair your bulbs with low-growing evergreen groundcovers, such as Veronica pectinata or white candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), so blooms will have a lush, colorful carpet from which to emerge.
Sunlight Issues. You may discover that some of your plants need more sun or shade than you originally thought. Spring is a great time for plant shuffling. After four years in my home, I decided to move my autumn brilliance serviceberry tree because: (1) It would likely grow faster if it weren’t so shaded by the next-door neighbor’s large honey locust tree; and (2) I needed more shade in front of a southeast-facing bedroom window. So I uprooted my serviceberry (a much easier job than I expected) and moved it in front of the bedroom window. Then I planted a compact merlot redbud tree in the area where the serviceberry originally stood. The redbud will likely appreciate more shade than the serviceberry did.
Hardiness Issues. You’ve been so conscientious, reading the plant descriptions before buying and installing your plants. Heck, some of them are even Plant Select winners, so they’re sure to work well in your garden, right? Well, not always.
For example, Coral Canyon twinspur performed like a champ for two seasons, then up and died. I had planted it before when I lived in Denver, and it lived only one season. So I’m done with twinspur.
Mojave sage (Salvia pachyphylla), another highly touted plant, has gorgeous silver-blue foliage. I planted three. Each year for three years, I replaced one to two plants because they just couldn’t deal with our cold winters. Now, three splendid blue avena grasses reside where Mojave sage did so poorly.
If plants keep dying on you, either move them to new locations or simply replace them with something else. Don’t be like me. I clung to Mojave sage longer than I should have.
Maintenance Issues. You may find that some plants require more maintenance than you’re willing to give them. Blanket flower and coreopsis are two prime examples. They’re lovely flowers, but you have to deadhead them every 15 minutes. What’s worse is that the blanket flower seed heads are pointy, so you have to wear gloves to avoid getting poked.
Some gardeners won’t grow roses because they don’t want to prune and deadhead them. I understand. However, roses vary in their neediness for care. For example, purple rain roses die back like crazy and require a lot of pesky pruning in the spring. Red Meidiland roses, on the other hand, don’t die back nearly as much, so pruning isn’t as labor intensive.
While there’s still time to plant, consider fine-tuning your landscape by moving plants around or installing new ones. What till fall, however, to plant spring-blooming bulbs.