Everyone has their own image of the perfect garden. For some it is a low-maintenance, natural sitting area with comfy furniture. Someone else might dream of raised vegetable beds overtaking the entire yard. While others envision sloping hillsides of wildflowers. The diverse ways you can transform a space with plants is what makes gardening such an enjoyable hobby for people of all talents. But among all the varying tastes for what makes a beautiful landscape, most homeowners can agree that colorful blooms are a welcome addition any time of year.
With some planning, and of course soil-covered hands, you can create a garden, flower bed, and yard space that provides those colorful blooms whether the leaves are falling or the new buds of spring are beginning to appear. The keys are in knowing what grows well in your area and selecting the right plants. Here are some pointers to help you create a colorful landscape for everyday beauty.
Know your Zone
The first step in planning any successful garden is to have an idea of what will grow in your area. Garden centers and commercial plant growers try to make it easier for the consumer by labeling seeds and plants with a hardiness zone. The label might read, “Zones 4-7” for example. If you aren’t familiar with hardiness zones, it’s time to visit the USDA Hardiness Map to find out where you lay. By inputting your zip code, the map will show you which of the 11 zones you land in. With that information, all you have to do is match your zone with appropriate plants.
For a novice or casual gardeners, it's best to grow within your zone and not make the process harder than it needs to be. However, if you're committed to growing one particular species to get the perfect splash of color to get your flower garden just right, there are steps you can take to alter the conditions of your yard for plants from different zones.
Variety of Plants
The types of plants you choose for your yard will make all the difference in the amount of color you receive season after season. For example, if you invest in 1,000 tulips and little else, you’ll have a colorful spring show, but a very bland summer and fall. It’s important to choose a variety of plants that bloom during different seasons. At the core, this is probably the number one most important contributor to a well-planned, constant blooming garden. Read up on the plants in your zone. Find varieties for every season. Most places can even have a bit of color during the winter with plants such as holly. Although holly berries are not technically a bloom, color is welcome any time of year and the winter is a little more challenging when most plants are dormant. If you live in a warmer climate you will have more options for winter color.
In addition to choosing plants appropriate for your hardiness zone and selecting plants that bloom in each season, consider blending many types of plants together for a full-spectrum effect. Look to bulbs for a reliable source of fill-in color or something to keep in pots on the porch. Bulbs are typically reliable for several years, although depending on where you live, you may need to pull them and store them indoors during the winter. There are bulbs for every season so do your research to find a variety that works for you. Be sure to clearly label the location of planted bulbs so you avoid accidentally damaging them while planting other plants.
There are also climbers like clematis and wisteria that provide giant blooms during the summer in areas of the yard that might otherwise be bare. Use them to dress up trellises, pergolas, or fences.
Annuals or Perennials?
Annuals offer a powerful color punch from spring well into fall. The great thing about annuals is that they are typically long-lasting during the season and they can be used to fill any voids when the plants from one season are dying off and the new recruits haven’t quite made it to the party yet. Annuals also work well in planters and hanging baskets for color in small spaces. The one downside to annuals, by definition, is that they only last one year making them a short term solution that you will need to repeat each year.
Perennials are not typically as colorful as bulbs or annuals, but they are hardy and reliable, coming back one year after the next. Look to herbs like rosemary and lavender and blend them with fall-blooming aster and the ever-hardy daylily. Remember that you can divide out many plants as they grow to cultivate more flowers for other parts of your yard. Daylilies are a great example of this, along with the prolific and colorful hydrangea. Then there are the seeds of wild flowers, sunflowers, or hollyhock that you can scatter around too.
Don’t overlook trees and shrubs as colorful contributors either. Remember than many bloom during the year. Apple trees blossom before bearing fruit. Shrubs like roses offer both visual interest and color.
Bringing all of these ideas together requires planning. Start now and think one year ahead. What do you want to see blooming as spring approaches next year? What plants do you already have that will bloom? Subdivide plants early or late in the season rather than when they are growing rapidly and make groupings of them where you are lacking color.
Create a planting schedule and put in on paper as well as your electronic calendar. Order or purchase plants ahead of timely planting windows. Remember that bulbs typically go into the ground several months ahead of bloom so the crocus, daffodil, and tulips should be in the dirt in late fall for your spring surprise.
Tip: If you’re limited on space, bulbs that grow during different seasons can be planted in the same space. For example, the three we just mentioned. The crocus will die off about the time the daffodil pops through, followed by the tulip a little later in spring.
Pruning and Care
Once you’ve put in the hard work to plan and plant a colorful year-round display, get the most of it with the proper care. Make sure to follow a regimented water and feeding schedule appropriate for your flowers, shrubs, and trees. Also prune during the right time of year and consistently deadhead old blooms to divert energy to new ones to maintain a healthy plant.