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Creating a garden that has appeal all through the year

Year-round interest: loquat trees have great visual value in a garden as they are evergreen, have flowers and produce fruit (Photograph submitted)

When it comes to gardens, April is a good time to think ahead.

The goal is to create a year-round interest: take a close look at the existing plantings. Plants in a poor state and sick plants should be removed and replaced with healthy material that can create a longer lasting impact – be it with flower, seed, fruit, or leaf shape and colour.

Mother Nature is the determining factor regarding growth and thus flowering can at times be fickle, as can oft be seen with Easter lilies.

Think not only long-term, but the association of plants in their location with one another.

For example, if a plant is not looking good at a certain time of year, plant something that will enhance the area in proximity, or select plants that are productive in flowering, seeding and fruiting to extend the season of interest.

Collectively, the range of interest throughout the year can encompass trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous, annuals, cacti and succulents, palms, ground covers and bulbs.

The use of each to accommodate its value to the garden is key to the longevity of the design and visual enhancement throughout the year.

I like to see foundation planting standing alone with an underplanting of evergreen and flowering ground covers including herbaceous, bulbous, and rhizomatous types.

Foundation planting usually comprises shrubs and trees (smaller species), or architectural genera such as Agave franzosinii, Euphorbia lactea, Cycas revoluta or Cycas circinalis, the latter types being “evergreen” in nature.

Always review your location before starting a design concept as Mother Nature can play havoc in exposed areas.

Focus on the area you want to beautify, especially in “visual impact points” seen from the drive entrance or from within the property.

Smaller trees with visual interest

The loquat, (Eriobotrya japonica), a commonly found plant has great visual value as it is evergreen, has flowers and produces fruits.

Pomegranate, (Punica granatum), is not always evergreen in habit, but produces red flowers followed by the fruit; even the foliage is attractive in relation to the flowers and fruit.

Jerusalem thorn, (Parkinsonia aculeata), has feathery-like foliage, yellow flowers and small spines on the branches. Pyramid tree, (Lagunaria patersonii), has hibiscus-like flowers and is partially evergreen.

Shrubs for use as foundation planting

Many of the hibiscus colours will make bold statements and not attain too great a height when pruned correctly.

Pineapple guava, (feijoa sellowiana), is fruit-bearing after a display of purple-white blossoms. Croton (Codiaeum variegatum), is found in a wide range of coloured foliage, the larger leaf types really stand out when planted among solid green foliage.

The natal plum (Carissa vars) is evergreen, quite hardy and produces a star-shaped flower followed by a red plum-shaped fruit.

Snow bush (Breynia disticha) is used for its leaf colouration – basically white and green – however there is a form having a pinkish tinge which is more spectacular when in full growth.

Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens), has silver foliage and pale lavender flowers, a great plant to make a statement between green foliaged specimens.

As an attractive palm for a small garden, consider the European fan palm, (Chamaerops humilis), a cluster-type palm with palmate foliage, with a height of ten feet.

Lady palm, (Rhapis excelsa), is also of a clustering habit and has slender, reed-like stems and small palmate foliage and is good for container growing.

The cacti and succulents offer an architectural change to the garden, with Agaves and aloes offering low-growing cluster types as in-fill plantings, mostly to the front of the beds.

Crown-of-thorns, (Euphorbia millii splendens), is a low-growing type with prickly stems and red flowers which have a haunting appearance when used in group plantings.

Herbaceous, bulbous and rhizomatous types include the African lily, (Agapanthus africanus), with large heads of blue flowers, and shell ginger, (Alpinia zerumbet), which is used as a statement plant with its yellow-green foliage and waxy drooping flowers.

Plant selection can make or break a design therefore consider such points as height of plant, flowering periods, fruiting/seeding capabilities, hardiness and likely pest and disease problems.

Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the United Kingdom. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society

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Published April 24, 2023 at 7:45 am (Updated April 24, 2023 at 7:45 am)

Creating a garden that has appeal all through the year

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