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North Hills Monthly

Bring Color to Your Yard Year-round

Aug 29, 2019 09:03AM ● By Vanessa Orr

Photo provided by Eisler Landscapes

As a homeowner, there’s nothing nicer than spending time outdoors on a deck or patio, enjoying the view of your beautiful yard. And whether that includes annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, or even special lighting, the important thing is that this feeling lasts for as long as possible—hopefully through all four seasons.

While winter can be challenging, it is possible to have some outdoor color even in the coldest months. And by planning ahead, you can have a yard that changes with the seasons, giving you a different view almost every time you go outside.

“With a lot of the amenities we install, like backyard patios, sunrooms, and outdoor fireplaces, we see people trying to stretch the season even longer,” said Eric French, president, Eisler Landscapes. “A lot of people use infrared heaters to take the evening chill off, which can give them another two months of outdoor time at the beginning and at the end of the season.”

When planting a seasonal palette, French suggests starting with bulbs in the spring, and ending with perennials in fall. “For winter blooms, there are a few bulbs that you can plant, and there are also winter-blooming trees and shrubs, including witch hazel varieties, that provide winter color,” he said.

According to Jawn Funyak of Funyak Landscapes, it is possible to bring color into the yard year-round, despite southwestern Pennsylvania’s sometimes intense weather and varying temperatures.

“While late spring and early summer flowers tend to be the most popular types of plantings, you can give a garden year-round appeal by starting with a good combination of evergreen and deciduous plants,” he said. “There are a lot of cool plants that aren’t flowers that can add a lot of color.”

Funyak suggests variegated weigela, goldmound spirea, hydrangea in a multitude of colors, flowering rhododendron hybrids, Knock Out roses, and Japanese maples, among others.

“Once you have your base plantings in, to balance things out, layer in annuals and perennials to get a seasonal rotation of color,” said Funyak, adding that when picking these plants, look at bloom times, levels of maintenance and sun/shade exposure to determine the best plants for your yard.

Ornamental grasses can be used to create different textures, while annuals can be used to accent certain areas, such as borders or walkways, as well as for ‘theme’ decorating—like using red, white and blue flowers to prepare the yard for a July 4 picnic.

“Monochromatic colors tend to be more popular for people who don’t want too much of a color explosion,” said Funyak, adding that it is possible to plant too many different colorful things, resulting in an overly busy garden. “It’s good to combine shades of similar colors, like light and dark purples, and reds and pinks; things that go together.”

For homeowners who want to create their own colorful spaces, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offers month-by-month gardening tips on their website (www.phipps.conservatory.org/green-innovation/at-home/greener-gardening-guide/12-month-gardening-tips) which includes advice on what to plant when. Right now, for example, asters and flowering kale and cabbage are recommended, as are pansies, which will do well as the weather cools down and will bloom into late fall. 

Why Hire a Professional?

While some people like to play in the garden, others may feel overwhelmed by the work that it takes, or prefer that professionals help them create a master plan.

While Eisler Landscapes does not do yard maintenance, they take a lot of factors into account when building outdoor patios and landscapes that will last and be enjoyed for years to come.

“We encourage people to get photos from magazines and the Internet that they like, and we will help them design a space that is similar but will work here, based on what they like about those photos,” said French. “People see an article about a garden in South Carolina or Maine, but they have to realize that this is a different climate. If you lay a brick sidewalk and do it wrong, you won’t kill a brick. But if you put a lot of plants in the wrong area, with too much sun or shade, you can be out a whole bunch of money.

“We say, ‘Right plant, right place,’ which relies a lot on experience,” French added. 

In addition to designing landscapes, Funyak’s also offers yard maintenance services, which can include adding seasonal color or other plantings throughout the year. 

“On any consulting or design work, the important thing is to listen to the customer to find out what they want to accomplish,” said Funyak. “A person may want particular flowers, or a dogwood tree because they grew up with one in the yard. Oftentimes, they don’t know exactly what flowers they want, but they know that they like pinks and purples.

“It’s pretty rare that someone will come in and say, ’I want Camelia Sinensis.’” 

In addition to colorful plantings, Funyak adds that there are other options for those who want to brighten up their surroundings. These can include different textures and colors of materials, such as couch cushions, pottery, outdoor furniture, pavers and stones, and paints and stains. 

Funyak’s also uses specialized lighting to add warmth and color to a space; using a smart device, customers can control the lighting zones, brightness and color in their gardens.

“Uplighting a Nikko Blue hydrangea with a blue light adds a new aspect to the space,” said Funyak. “Using a red or pink light on a red or maroon Japanese maple really brings out the colors. 

“There are a lot of ways to add a more vibrant look to a space,” he added. “The important thing is that it all works together.”