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How To Plant A Garden That's Nice To Look At — All Year Round

Here's what to plant to keep your garden flourishing from spring to winter.
By Sarah Nixon
All season garden Photo, Kelly Brown.

A garden that always has continuous blooms throughout the growing season is a goal for many of us flower lovers. It can be easy to head out to the garden centre in the spring and be lured by plants that are blooming in their pots and then end up with a plot filled with flowers that just bloom in the spring. It takes a bit more planning to design a garden that gives us flowers throughout summer and fall (and still provides some interest in winter). Here's how:

1. Take your garden's qualities into account when making your plant choices.

How much sun do you have when the trees leaf out? What direction does the garden face? How wet or dry is your soil? Will you be able to provide water? Are deer or other animals an issue? If you choose plants that will be happy with the realities of your garden, you are halfway to success!

2. Invest in some perennial plants and shrubs.

Although they are more expensive, and take a year or two to fill out perennials and shrubs will provide the backbone to the garden which can be filled in with annuals and bulbs.

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3. Plant a variety of things that will bloom at different times.

Below are some plant options for different seasons:



Bulbs are a beautiful and easy way to bring colour to the spring garden. Snowdrops and crocuses will often bloom while there is still snow on the ground. Try fritillaria or muscari, too. Plant them near shrubs and under deciduous trees to take advantage of the sun before the trees leaf out. Beloved spring perennials that bloom in spring include hellebores and peonies and larger shrubs like witch hazel, lilac and magnolia.

Lilies are another easy bulb to grow. They also have a long vase life if you pick them when the first bulb is just open. If you're going to cut them, leave at least a third of the stem on the plant to keep the bulb fed for the following year. When the lilies are done, I like to over plant the area with a late season bloomer like peacock orchids.


This is when the garden is rich with daisies, coneflowers, rudbeckia, lavender and annuals such as sunflowers (my favourite varieties are Moulin Rouge and Strawberry Blonde). A striking, unusual perennial option is Bear’s breeches. It is hardy to about zone 5 and tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions.

Late summer and fall

This is when dahlias are at their peak. I also love Japanese anemones, toad lily, cosmos and Ruby Moon Hyacinth bean. Try rosa rugosa which will produce beautiful rosehips in the fall as well as single roses earlier in the season — plus they're hardy to zone 2-3.


Perennials and shrubs that have a beautiful structure or colour to them will keep the view interesting. Try red barked dogwood, corkscrew hazel, grasses such as Northern wild oats or little bluestem.


Sarah Nixon is an urban flower farmer and floral designer in Toronto. Since 2002, her flower company, My Luscious Backyard, has sustainably grown over 50 varieties of cut flowers in a micro-farm in many residential yards in Toronto’s downtown west side.

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