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How to Make Four Types of Gardens Thrive at a Mile High

Plant a Four-Season Garden Like a Pro

With a little attention to detail, it's entirely possible to build a garden that year-round color and interest. Begin with this blooming timeline for flowers that thrive in Denver.

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With a little attention to detail, it’s entirely possible to build a garden that provides year-round color and interest. Start with this blooming timeline for flowers that thrive in Denver, as well as tips for planting them like a pro.

Spring

Crocuses; tulips; hyacinths; alliums (flowering onions)

Summer

Perennials including day lilies, irises, and peonies, which can last for generations

Late Summer

Agastache (hyssop) in purple, orange, Double Bubble Mint (pink), Coronado Red, and Sonoran Sunset; pitcher sage; Autumn Sapphire sage; Windwalker Royal Red sage

Fall

Fall asters, both native and more common garden varieties; colchicums; fall blooming bulbs—look for the label designation—such as cyclamens or crocuses, which can bloom as late as November

Late Winter

Lenten rose in white, pink, burgundy, apricot; dwarf conifers, which provide winter interest and color and a “green screen” for flowers and shrubs throughout the seasons


Do It Right

1. Shop Wisely
Avoid the temptation to purchase flowers in full bloom from the greenhouse or nursery. You’ll have missed the actual bloom, and the color will be fleeting. “Keep in mind that you’re planting something for the future, something to look forward to,” says Mike Bone, associate director of horticulture at
the Denver Botanic Gardens.

2. Plant Accordingly
“It’s crucial to think about the microclimates in your garden,” says Alison Peck, owner and principal of Matrix Gardens. “For example, the south side of the house is always sunnier than the north side, so plants will bloom later on the north side. Think about where you spend time outside and where you look out of your windows. Create little vignettes of seasonal color—different areas to be the stars of different seasons.”

3. Layer Strategically
“Evergreens or broad-leaved evergreens will provide structure, or the ‘bones’ of the garden to work around,” Bone says. “Then create your framework; do most of your space with shrubs, trees, and perennials. If you want that instantaneous color, leave space in your garden for annuals. You can change up the color and varieties as often as you want.”

4. Blend Your Beds
There’s no need to separate your flowers from your fruits, veggies, and herbs. Integrate some edibles that are also great pollinator plants into your perennial flower beds. For example, alpine strawberries are lovely tiny fruit plants, and unusual fruit bushes like golden currant are colorful season-extenders that also attract pollinators. “There’s something freeing and almost bohemian about letting things intermingle,” Bone says.

5. Make It Easy
“A crucial part of a long-blooming garden is using bulbs,” Bone says. “Look at bulbs as a way to kick-start spring blooming. They’re really easy to garden with. Just dig and drop [in the fall].” The experts suggest species tulips (which last longer than hybrid tulips), bulbous irises, and spring crocuses, which are some of the earliest seasonal risers.

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