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GardenSMART :: Designing a Garden for Year-round Pleasure

Designing a Garden for Year-round Pleasure

By Erica Glasener, horticulturist and Marketing Manager, Gibbs Gardens

Creating a garden from a blank canvas, of any size, is a big undertaking. Whether you garden on a large scale or you have a small urban property, the goals are the same: To create a landscape that offers four seasons of beauty with color, texture and fragrance. With some thought and planning your garden can provide four seasons of interest.

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Photo credit: Erica Glasener


With any garden, the site, including the soil, exposure, and access to water, are key factors when it comes to selecting plants that will thrive and prosper. Do your homework, check with your local Extension Service for advice on soil and plant selection. Take photographs of gardens in your region that you like and find out what plants they use.

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Photo credit: Erica Glasener

The Design

The most appealing gardens have “a sense of place” and complement the architecture of the homes they surround. They don’t look as if they have been plunked down but rather the overall effect is pleasing and the house and garden seem connected. When you design your garden here are a few things to consider.

  1. Select garden structures that will help set the tone for the style of your garden. Consider balance, scale and symmetry whether you use a bench, gazebo, wall or arbor.
  2. Choose key trees and shrubs. Include a mix of evergreen and deciduous for the best effect. For example evergreen rhododendrons make great companions for hydrangeas, many of which are deciduous.
  3. Consider the views both from the inside of your home looking out to the garden and from the outside looking in.
  4. Develop lists of plants based on what you like and make sure you choose plants for every season for either their foliage or flowers or both.
  5. Group similar colors together for the best effect.
  6. Don’t forget the herbaceous ground layer. Add ferns, groundcovers and spring bulbs. You can tuck these between and under shrubs for the best effect.   
  7. Use containers with combinations of annuals and perennials to add seasonal color. They can be moved around your garden when you need a bright spot of color.
  8. Choose a few reliable plants that will reward you during each season.

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Photo credit: Rick Canon

Listed below are some good choices for gardens in the southeast:

  • Daffodils (there are literally 1,000’s of selections for spring)
  • Japanese maples (for spring, summer, fall and winter)
  • Viburnum macrocephalum, Chinese snowball viburnum (spring and summer)
  • Hellebores (for all four seasons)
  • Amsonia hubrichtii (spring, summer and fall)
  • Chameacyparis obtusa, Hinoki cypress (for all four seasons)
  • Natchez crape myrtle (for all four seasons)

A well designed garden ebbs and flows with the seasons, each offering its own special colors, textures and fragrances. As one plant finishes flowering another comes into bloom or leaf.

Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, GA – Just an hour north of Atlanta a wonderful destination awaits discovery by you: 220 acres of gardens in the rolling hills of North Georgia, designed to offer beauty in four seasons. A great place to escape for the afternoon or a day! Stroll, enjoy, have lunch, stroll some more. Ride the Tram or sit on one of the many benches placed throughout the Gardens. Whether you’re a keen gardener or just appreciate nature and the outdoors, Gibbs Gardens is bound to inspire. This estate garden was created and developed by owner Jim Gibbs for over 30 years before it opened to the public in 2012. Four feature Gardens include the Daffodils, Monet Waterlilies, the Japanese Gardens and the Manor House Gardens. 

Gibbs Gardens is open March 1-mid-December.
Check our website for admission fees, hours and information about events.

Erica Glasener is a horticulturist, author, and the Marketing Manager for Gibbs Gardens. 


All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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