Most of us want our gardens to look fabulous all year round. This is great when you are willing to invest the time and money it takes to do it. Yes, it is certainly possible to have a garden that looks like it is at its peak in spring, summer, fall, and even winter – especially if your garden is large enough to hold the amount of plants required for it. But let’s be honest – always making the garden shine takes a lot of effort. You would need to plant an evergreen frame for the background and then add spring-flowering bulbs, early-flowering shrubs and ephemeral, summer stars and fall highlights. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Of course, when these myriad plants die, bloom, or become too large for their allotted spots, they must be slaved, pruned, divided, pruned, and perhaps dragged away. This carefully constructed symphony requires a lot of knowledge, skill, sweat and space to pull through. Many gardeners may enjoy some amount of outdoor work, but understandably do not have the time to spend the hours and hours necessary to create a garden that will perform at its best in any season. For these people, designing a garden that peaks during a certain window of time might be the answer to easily getting a landscape that looks good for most of the year.

Garden designer Sharon Nyenhuis is a master at designing a peak. The landscapes she plans, plants, and maintains in the Pacific Northwest are a perfect example of spaces that look great during a six to eight week window and then gracefully exist in a more subdued – but still compelling – view as the months age. Perhaps the best example of this design approach can be found in Beth and Cappy Rothman’s back yard and garden at the foot of Olympic National Park. This private landscape, designed by Sharon, lets the surrounding landscape of beautiful mountains and the Pacific Ocean play second fiddle. Tour the garden to see how designing a summit can result in a truly magical space.

The landscape was planned, planted and cared for by garden designer Sharon Nyenhuis, whose work is on the pages of. were presented Fine gardening many times. Sharon’s challenge for this particular garden was to design it so that it had a single peak. That might seem like a bad idea. But designing for a summit doesn’t mean the landscape will only look good for one season; it just means that you choose plants that do their best during the same six to eight weeks. Photo: Bruce Nyenhuis
This garden is in the Pacific Northwest, so a midsummer peak - when the rain is over and the temperatures have risen - was ideal.  The plants Sharon chose didn't all bloom during the flowering period, but most did.  Some of her favorites were Himalayan knotweed
This garden is in the Pacific Northwest, so a midsummer peak – after the rain had passed and the temperatures had risen – was ideal. The plants Sharon chose didn’t all bloom during the flowering period, but most did. Some of her favorites were Himalayan knotweed “Border Jewel”, the annual Diascia and an assortment of roses, Asiatic lilies and perennial geraniums.
The garden is made up of a series of Bermed island beds that all come together in a maze-like arrangement.  There are concentric gravel paths between each bed that crunch underfoot.  The gray color of the stone provides the perfect stage for a row of colorful plants to gently pour into the sidewalks.
The garden is made up of a series of Bermed island beds that all come together in a maze-like layout. There are concentric gravel paths between each bed that crunch underfoot. The gray color of the stone provides the perfect stage for a row of colorful plants to gently pour into the sidewalks. Photo: Bruce Nyenhuis

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