Create the ultimate garden with four seasons of nonstop bloom by carefully selecting perennial plants that will thrive year round in your U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone. Perennial plants are those that return in your garden every year. Choose plants that are easy to care for and will naturalize in your garden to keep the show going year after year, season after season. Look for plants that will bloom in succession to prevent bare spots in your garden.
Tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, peony, bleeding heart, columbine and crocus are some of the earliest spring blooming plants. Look for varieties that bloom early in the season and those that bloom midseason and late in the season to keep the show going from late February through early June. The ideal time to plant flowers that bloom in the spring is the fall; however, in recent years, nurseries and mail-order companies have started offering pre-chilled bulbs that are suitable for spring planting. Be aware that during the first year these plants may require some type of support, such as stakes, to prevent them from flopping, since the root system did not have adequate time to establish itself over winter.
Roses, yarrow, Monarda, Echinacea, phlox and black-eyed Susan are nonstop bloomers that can handle the heat of summer and attract a wide variety of beneficial insects and birds into the garden. To encourage these plants to keep blooming, deadhead, or cut off, the faded flowers before they set seed. Roses require regular fertilization, deep watering and frequent deadheading to keep them looking good. The exception to this rule is the Knock-Out series of roses. These roses thrive on neglect and bloom from early summer right up to the first fall frost even if you don't deadhead them.
Chrysanthemum, asters, goldenrod, Joe-Pye weed and sedum are the stars of the fall garden. The blooms come in a variety of colors that complement the season. These colors include shades of brown, yellow, orange and reds. Deadhead the flowers as they fade unless you want them to go to seed. The dried flowers do create interest in the winter garden. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies will visit many of these flowers for one last sip of natural nectar before they migrate south for the winter.
The winter garden is often overlooked, especially by northern gardeners. Once the first fall frost kills the garden, plants such as hellebore and camellia begin blooming. Later in the winter, perennial plants such as lungwort, winter aconite and snowdrops emerge and burst into bloom. Careful selection of winter blooming plants is essential to the success of gardening outdoors out of season.
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Spring-Flowering Bulbs; Karen Russ; June 1999
- Ohio State University Extension; Growing Peonies; Hope Weber
- University of Missouri Extension: Hellebores Are a Good Way to Beat Winter Garden Blues; Mary Kroening; March 2010
- Oregon State University: Winter Blooming Flowers Can Brighten Cold Gray Days; Carol Savonen and Neil Bell
- University of Illinois Extension: Plant Palette; Winter Aconite: Eranthis hyemalis; Jennifer Schultz Nelson; March 2007
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension; Liven Up Your Spring Bulb Show; Don Janssen; September 2007
- Michigan State University; Galanthus nivalis: Common Snowdrop; November 1999
- Fine Gardening; Fill Winter With Flowers; Nancy Goodwin
- University of Illinois Extension: Fringed Leaf Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)
- University of Illinois Extension: Old Fashion Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
- University of Minnesota Extension; Tall Garden Phlox; Deborah L. Brown; 2009
- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Echinacea; Millie Davenport; November 2009
- University of Illinois Extension: In Praise of Fall Blooming Perennials
- University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension; Fall-Blooming Perennials; Dr. Leonard Perry
- "The Garden In Winter"; Suzy Bales; 2007
- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Growing Roses; Karen Russ; April 1999
- Photo Credit Flower garden image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com spring garden image by Marek Kosmal from Fotolia.com echinacea und hummel image by Gerold Setz from Fotolia.com Sedum image by Kimberly Wickerink from Fotolia.com Camellia image by Lloid from Fotolia.com
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