To successfully create a continuous, vibrant look with your landscaping, a host of factors come into play, from using native perennials and annuals that thrive to choosing accent pieces like benches and birdbaths that boost aesthetic appeal.
One aspect that’s all too easily forgotten, however, is the “middle layer” between shorter flowers and taller trees. When this tier is missing, it can feel like there’s a gap right at your sight line, and it could make those gorgeous accent pieces feel out of place or seem too prominent.
Even if you fill in the middle ground with shrubs — which is a great idea — planting species that reach their peak at the same time as the flowers above or below means you’re shortening your season unnecessarily. Enter “layering.”
As a concept, layering means not just planting for a lush look, but gardening in a way that ensures plants bloom at different times of year, so you extend that beauty throughout multiple seasons, according to David Culp, author of “The Layered Garden.”
“This is a design process where you maximize the beauty and interest in each planted space by combining complementary plants that either grow and bloom together or follow each other in succession,” he says. “More than just making sure one blooming plant follows another, layering is the art of creating a series of peak garden moments.”
Such a strategy can be a lifelong endeavor to perfect, he adds, but that’s part of the fun. Here are some tips for starting your own layered landscape:
- Consider trellises, walls and fences. When you grow plants on vertical surfaces, it adds to the overall lushness by bringing flowers and foliage to eye level and above, David says. Also, you can fill in spaces quickly in the same season.
- Know when flowers will peak. If you’re trying to achieve succession blooming, it’s crucial to plant according to when blooms are expected. For example, don’t place all your early blooming flowers in one spot — space them throughout the landscape so you’ll have multiple areas in bloom simultaneously.
- Plant shrubs as background. These are ideal for the area between lower plants and taller trees. Many people like to incorporate flowering shrubs for an extra shot of color.
- Keep a journal and photo diary. What did your landscape look like three years ago? How about 10 years ago? It’s easy to forget the progress you’ve made and what you’ve tried, but a photo diary can help you track what worked and what didn’t.
Most of all, view your landscape areas as art projects that are never really finished, David suggests. Every year, or even every season, play with different elements and new layers. The best part? You’ll never get bored.