This layered border in Ontario, Canada (zone 6), designed by Yvonne Cunnington, is a four season wonder full of steal-me ideas. Anchored by a grove of tall blue spruce, a cluster of impressive shrubs at the front keeps the show going from season to season. Dwarf Korean lilacs bloom in spring, Limelight hydrangea shrubs flower in summer, and maiden grasses sport tall plumes in early fall. But in October, the late show begins. Foliage and faded blooms morph into burgundy pink hues against the coppery leaves of ninebark shrubs, and plumes grow feathery, glowing in the softer, slanting rays of the fall sun. Winter isn’t left out either; those blue spruce catch the snow, and grasses, left unpruned, glitter with frost.
You can do this…start with a few plants for structure (like the spruce, here) and layer in shrubs that do different things in different seasons.