Variety In The Landscape

Variety In The Landscape

Why more can be better for your yard, design, food production and the environment.

There are times when less is more, but in the landscape, more is often better. Here are 6 reasons why a variety of plants and garden structures are desirable.

  1. Colors and Textures of Foliage. When you have a variety of leaf colors, sizes and shapes, you’ve always got something interesting going on in your gardens. The selection of plants with colorful foliage has never been greater, so it’s easy to create a yard that’s visually exciting.
Including plants with purple, yellow, or variegated leaves brings color into the landscape even when only a few plants are blooming.

2. Different Bloom Times. Aim to have some plants in bloom throughout the year. There are even shrubs such as witch hazel, or perennials such as hellebores, that flower in the winter! By planting a variety of plants you’ll always have something in bloom, and you’re yard will become a seasonal celebration.

This garden has color in the spring from the azaleas and creeping phlox, but there are other plants here that will bloom in the summer. The ‘Aureola’ hakon grass adds butter-yellow color from April into October.

3. Better Harvests. Anyone who has had a vegetable garden knows that one year one crop will thrive and produce while another doesn’t do well. So one year you’ll have an abundance of eggplants and the next year it will be peppers or tomatoes. Different varieties of the same vegetable can vary in production as well, so you might see many yellow summer squash but not as many green zucchini. Some of this variability can be do to weather, but many times there is no obvious reason why one crop prospers and another sulks. If you plant many types of vegetables, you’ll have plenty of fresh, tasty food no matter how erratic some varieties grow.

Make sure you include several types of vegetables in your garden. You never know when one will produce gangbusters, while another one doesn’t do as well. With many types of veggies growing, you’ll have a flavor-filled table.

4. Including Native Plants. We’ve come to appreciate the wisdom of including many native plants in our landscapes. Native plants are the hosts of many insects that support our songbirds. Many pollinators rely on natives as well, so a yard that includes as many natives as possible contributes to the wellness of our region. Along with non-native blue hydrangeas and roses you love, be sure to plant a variety of plants that are indigenous to the northeast region.

The purple-leaf Physocarpus, variegated Yucca, and the orange flowering Asclepias tuberosa are all native plants. Also in this garden are other drought-tolerant natives such as yarrow, Baptisia and asters. The yellow Verbascum in this garden is not native.

5. Insect and Disease Protection. When you have a variety of plants in your yard, you’re better protected from pests and problems. Most insects and diseases are very host-specific, meaning that they don’t attack all types of plants. New insects and other problems are introduced into this country regularly. If you have all one type of plant, and a new bug comes along that destroys that variety, you could lose most of your plantings. Similarly, if you have a privacy screen that is all the same type of plant, if they don’t do well, or are a target of insects, you could lose your entire “living fence.” Planting a variety of plants is not only more visually interesting, but is better insurance for long-term success.

Here is an example of screening gone bad. Leyland cypress tend to get bare on the bottom and too tall on top over time. Had this area been planted with a variety of other evergreens, the screening would not only have been more long-lasting, but visually more interesting as well.

6. Structures Enliven Spaces. In addition to a variety of plants, think about including a few structures in the garden as well. Dividing a small yard into sections or “garden rooms” can actually make it seem larger. Structures such as fences, arbors, and stone walls also provide a solidity that contrasts with plant textures.

Dividing up a small yard can make it seem larger, because you get glimpses of what lies beyond the arbor but not of the entire garden at once. Structures also add interest in the winter when the plants aren’t as full or colorful.
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