How to create a beautiful spring garden in Western New York

colorful spring garden
These gardens at the home of Tom and Darci Homme in Pendleton reverberate with spring color. Plants include ‘Lynwood Gold’ forsythia, left; redbud tree, center; ‘P.J.M. ‘ rhododendron, below the redbud, and creeping phlox on the right. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

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by Connie Oswald Stofko

“It changes every day,” said Tom Homme of his spring garden in Pendleton.

There’s never a lull in the landscape of Tom Homme and his wife Darcie because he has spent the past 11 years working to create gardens that are interesting in all four seasons.

We got a peek at what makes his winter garden attractive in this previous article.

overall view of Pendelton garden in spring
Compare this view of the Hommes’ center garden to the one we saw in winter. Evergreens still anchor the gardens, but other shades of green, such as the shrubs in the foreground that are beginning to leaf out, add variety. As you get closer to the garden, you see daffodils, low-growing flowers and fairy items that add splashes of color. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

You will be able to see the Hommes’ garden in person this summer on Open Gardens. In order to get all the details on where the Open Gardens are located, you need to buy the book, which is now available at certain garden centers. You can also order a book online or buy the Open Gardens smartphone app. See all the details here.

Homme notes that, with the warm weather we’ve been having, his spring garden may be three weeks ahead of where it usually is at this time of year.

Let’s take a look at what makes a spring garden interesting in Western New York.

Color

Let’s start with green– green is a color, too!

Spring grass is amazing. It appears in an electric shade of green that seems to light up the whole yard. After spring, it never looks quite the same.

And there are many other different shades of green in Homme’s garden. Tall junipers are dark green. New leaves on shrubs are light green. Perennials that are popping up now have leaves of every shade of green.

bee on heather with vinca in background
A bee gets an early spring snack on the heather, a low-growing plant that is one of the first things to flower in the Hommes’ garden. Blooming in the the background is vinca minor, a groundcover. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

You can see other colors in Homme’s gardens, too. The most spectacular show of color is around the arbor to the right of the house, which you can see in the first photo.

Here are some of the plants that make those gardens look special in spring:

  • ‘Lynwood Gold’ forsythia. Homme likes this variety because it flowers earlier, better and longer than other varieties. One drawback is that the branches of ‘Lynwood Gold’ are brittle and tend to snap.
  • Redbud tree. Don’t be confused by the name. The buds are a dark purple and the flowers look pink.
  • ‘P.J.M.’ rhododendron.
  • Creeping phlox. Creating such a large swath of creeping phlox adds impact.
  • Daffodils.
  • Ornamental grasses.
  • Don’t forget about evergreens. The garden in the background of the photo would look empty if all it contained was creeping phlox. The tall white pine, two smaller Alberta spruces and a variegated dogwood add color, shape and height to the area.
spring leaves of nine bark Amber Jubilee
As the leaves of nine bark ‘Amber Jubilee’ grow larger, they will make a bigger splash of color in the spring garden. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Anticipation

In a spring garden, it’s as exciting to anticipate what’s coming next as it is to see what is flowering now.

This early in the season, the red stems of peonies breaking ground add color and are thrilling to see. Heck, any plant that is popping up adds to the spring picture, and the ones that will flower soon are wonderful.

One plant that is getting ready to bloom in Homme’s garden is bachelor’s buttons or centaurea, which gets a blue flower. It spreads easily by seed and pops up everywhere, he said.

Ninebark tree ‘Amber Jubilee’ is beginning to leaf out. The leaves are a reddish yellow and will turn burgundy in autumn. In winter, it has peeling bark.

His purple sand cherry trees are beginning to leaf out now, adding another color to the garden.

Other plants in various spots that will bloom soon are:

  • Anenome. This groundcover gets a white flower and is budding now.
  • Lilac. This shrub has buds now.
  • Viburnum. This shrub has green buds now.
  • Iris
  • Tulips
  • Rose
  • Daylilies
  • Forget-me-not
  • Perennial geranium
daffodils under juniper
Right now the tall juniper in back and the low-growing ‘Old Gold’ juniper in the foreground anchor the spring-flowering plants: the two varieties of daffodils and the creeping phlox. But there’s more to come! In the center are the sword-shaped leaves of iris and at right are bachelor’s buttons or centaurea. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Garden ornaments

Now is the time to bring out your decorations, whether they’re large or small.

Darcie Homme takes her fairy figures and accessories into the house for the winter, so you didn’t see them in the previous article. She has brought them back out into the center garden. The fairy items not only add color and interest, they bring your eye down to notice the low-growing plants in that bed.

fairy garden in Homme yard in Pendleton
Darcie Homme’s fairy items add color and whimsy to the garden. Plants include, from left, hyacinth and sedum, azalea shrub in back, and tulips in front corner. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Potted plants

forced hydrangeas by door
You won’t find hydrangeas blooming in your garden this early in spring. These hydrangeas were forced to bloom early and were sold as an Easter plant. When the nights get too cold, Homme takes them into the garage to protect them frost. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

In the summer, we use annual flowers in pots and baskets to add color here and there. Homme has done something similar for his spring garden.

He planted a pair of blooming hydrangeas plants in pots, which he displays on both sides of his door.

No, you won’t find hydrangeas blooming in Western New York gardens this early in spring. These hydrangeas were forced to bloom early and were sold as an Easter plant. When the nights get too cold, Homme takes them into the garage to protect them frost.

You can do this with other Easter plants as well. Whether the Easter flower you buy can be transplanted into your garden to come back as a perennial depends on the plant. See more here.

You might also try growing spring bulbs in containers. If you layer the bulbs, you can get waves of flowers. See details here.

Tip: Spring bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are planted in autumn. Mark your calendar to plant in September if you want spring flowers next year. You want to plant after the hottest summer weather is done and before the ground freezes.

5 Comments on “How to create a beautiful spring garden in Western New York

  1. What a great Green Thumb. Gets a little bit of it from his Grandmother Homme.
    She loved flowers and flowering bushes. She would be proud of you ..
    Beautifully done !!!

  2. Hey there old friend. Your gardens look magnificent. We are a month or two behind you here in Colorado as we have had a foot of snow in tbe past week. Love your inspiration for what to plant next month as long as it will grow in zone 5b. Keep up the great work.

  3. I am so glad you highlighted another season of Tom and Darcie Homme’s gardens.
    I stopped by the other day to see the spring awakening in their gardens and was not disappointed.
    I love looking at the fairy garden in the front and am always surprised by the new plants, trees, arbors and additions that are constantly enhancing the whole large area that is their property.
    I encourage everyone to stop by in the summer. It’s spectacular.
    I may be a bit bias as Tom is my big brother.
    I too love to garden and am always looking to him for inspiration. He never disappoints

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