It happens every year. Spring arrives in a rainbow burst of tulips, daffodils and other fall-planted bulbs, but it fades away after a few short weeks. Meanwhile, trees and shrubs burst into colorful but brief bloom, then leaf out, and all that remains is green. Summer perennials and roses are growing but not yet blooming. It’s an awkward color gap, occurring right when we’re in the mood to be outdoors and want our yards to look great.
You can have lots of color during this time, though. Here are some tricks to get your garden and yard through the color gap in style. The punch these plants provide improves the look of your yard for the in-between weeks of early to midsummer and often beyond…
Install plants with colorful leaves. Flowers don’t have to be the only burst of color in your garden or yard. Splashy and patterned leaves of red, maroon, pink, white and cream can enliven any space. Coleus and caladium are good, affordable choices and widely available. (If you want these plants to liven up your garden in future years, bring them inside when summer is over. They don’t like the cold and will otherwise die off.) Mix a few of these into your flower beds, and they’ll distract as your spring flowers start to drop off and their leaves turn yellow, and still be around to highlight your midsummer blooms when those finally appear. You also can use perennials such as hosta, ivy and brunnera, which all come in variegated selections that help them stand out if your garden is going through a mostly green phase.
Choose double-duty flowers. Look for ones that add a bit of interest even when they’re not flowering. Try irises with yellow-striped foliage, gaura with white-edged leaves or an array of pretty purple, rose or even chartreuse heucheras. These selections look terrific even when not flowering. Any red-colored flower, such as impatiens, salvia or geranium, that you add will look amazing when paired with these leaves.
Don’t play it too safe. A blend of various complementary hues—created when you, say, plunk an entire flat of assorted marigolds or pansies into a bed—can get visually boring. With temporarily less competition for attention from other flowers, this is the time for annuals to shine. Aim for contrast. Pair strongly contrasting colors—yellow marigolds with purple scaevola, red impatiens with white impatiens, blue salvia with orange zinnia.
Avoid planting “singletons.” A single, bold flowering plant doesn’t give the eye a good chance to enjoy the rest of the garden because your gaze almost can’t help but be drawn to it. And a color tends to make more of an impression if there’s more of it. So plant the same or similarly colored flowers in groups of at least three.
In the “gap time,” annuals are great for this purpose. A ribbon of white impatiens threaded through a perennial garden, for instance, or a section of purple-flowered salvia can be really dramatic without being overpowering.
Get maximum impact from potted plants. Potted plants can be a beautiful and useful addition to your garden. Since they easily can be moved from spot to spot, just plop them down in whatever area needs a color boost. When choosing pots, don’t settle for ordinary clay pots or plain window boxes. Use vibrant solid-color containers or patterned and painted ones. If you find a pot that you really like but it lacks necessary drainage holes, just “nest” a practical pot inside this decorative one.
Move those containers around! You can tuck a pot of, say, cheery geraniums into a flower bed that needs some color, then simply move it to another spot as the garden’s other flowers come and go. Then put a fresh potted selection into that slot. In this way, you easily can swap out plants and ensure that your displays are always looking their best.
A “scene-stealer” is another good trick. Site a large pot, urn or other container in a prominent spot. Make it impressive, filling it to overflowing with your favorite colorful flowers and foliage plants. Nobody will notice that its surroundings aren’t as exciting.
Don’t forget garden décor. It’s not cheating to add nonplant items to take up the slack—it’s practical and fun! The early-summer lull is actually an opportunity to take a good look at your yard and go shopping. Add a colorful gazing ball, a garden statue, pretty tiles or stepping stones, a bird house, a birdbath, a pretty flag, a bench or other garden furniture. Such items create a welcome distraction when your garden is not at peak color.
Also, the benefits of decorative garden items can outlast this gap period. These are objects that can give your garden a stable structure on which you can build beautiful displays year after year.
Look at the bigger picture. The gap time also is a chance to look at what colors your home adds to the overall garden scene. What color is the trim, the front door, the garage door, the porch? Work with these colors, matching or contrasting them with flowers and containers.
If you don’t work with your house’s color (and style, for that matter), your landscaping may end up looking out of place or like a hodgepodge.
Now might also be the time to go even bolder with your garden color. Why not paint an entire fence yellow, a trellis red, a gate purple? Garden color should be joyful, and a bold step such as that gets the party started!