The seasonal garden

By: R.Collins 

As autumn continues to envelop Michigan landscapes, the time has come to prepare for the winter months and the blooms to come after the snow thaws. 

Sarah Sella, landscape designer at Alfresco Landscapes LLC in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said introducing seasonal plants to the garden in the fall when the rainfall is cool and steady and the hot temperatures have dissipated, allows plants a gentle environment in which to take root. 

“Now is the time to plant your spring flowering bulbs,” Sella said. “Sometimes people want daffodils in the spring time and then, suddenly, it’s spring already and you’ve missed your window of opportunity. They have to be in the ground in the fall.”

Alfresco Landscapes, or Alfresco by Paul Burd, is a residential landscape design, construction, and care studio. Sella, who has an academic background in horticultural science, is accustomed to Michigan’s distinctive climate, and specifically that of Zone 5 on the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The map serves as a standard by which growers and gardeners can determine which plants will thrive in certain locations across the United States. With its unique climate—an often unpredictable aspect of Michigan life—Sella noted long-term preparation is a necessity for achieving a hearty landscape. 

“When perennials start to no longer look good, start cutting back,” Sella said. “For people with extensive gardens it can be quite time consuming. It’s easier to tackle it in sections, but start now because you never know when the snow is going to fall.”

To assist gardeners in preparing for cool seasons, Sella and the Alfresco team have developed a process for locating which materials and layouts will best suit every garden. Once she has completed the initial interview process—in which she finds which plant and flower species are preferred—Sella then pairs complementary colors based on the architecture and shades of the home or building’s exterior and which materials are already rooted in the landscape. 

To complement the home with a variety of colors and textures, Sella enjoys incorporating ornamental grasses, kale, and cabbages—in shades of sage, eggplant, hot pink, and other deep jewel tones. She will also use Coral Bells, or Heuchera, which yield leaves in shades of scarlet or deep purple. 

The Alfresco landscape design team is currently prepping for their fall planter service, a process involving the integration of fall colors into the landscape by utilizing flowers common in the region—including mums, pansies, and other assortments of perennials and ornamental grasses—to create a smart, natural aesthetic. Though the Alfresco team offers pruning and maintenance services, Sella notes that landowners who’d like to prepare for the cold fronts to come should hold off on pruning for this season.

“A good general rule of thumb is you prune flowering shrubs right after they’re done flowering,” Sella said. “If you prune too late into the season, you can cut off next year’s blooms. Pruning can actually encourage plants to kick out new growth [which] the cold can potentially damage.”

Among landscape design, construction, and pruning services, the Alfresco team offers fall clean up, leaf removal services, and snow removal in the winter to ensure that gardens look their best throughout the year and evoke a continuous aesthetic.