Experienced gardeners and garden designers know this isn't as easy as it sounds. Plants bloom according to their own internal time clocks. To have a garden that is consistently colorful, we need to work with our plants and understand their natural tendencies. Here are some tips to help you manage your own cast of characters and get them to put on a show that will delight you all season long.
Most people shop for perennials during May or early June, and the most popular plants are the ones that are already in bloom. This means most perennial gardens are filled with early summer flowers such as bleeding heart, peonies, iris, and Asiatic lilies. If you want color in mid to late summer, make sure your garden also includes plants such as rudbeckia, sedums, asters, and ornamental grasses.
Shrubs add structure to flower gardens and can also provide flowers, berries, and interesting foliage. Good perennial garden companions include dwarf azaleas and lilacs for springtime blooms, buddleias, clethera and shrub roses for summer flowers, fothergilla, hydrangeas and Japanese maples for fall, and winterberry, Siberian dogwood and witch hazel for winter interest.
Stretch the Color with Bulbs
Planting daffodils, tulips, muscari, and other spring-flowering bulbs will fill your garden with color long before your neighbors' gardens are in bloom. Plan to continue the show right through October by adding summer-flowering bulbs such as dahlias, elephant ears, caladiums, and eucomis. These heat lovers grow vigorously in summer heat and are at their best as summer turns to fall.
Primp and Prune As You Go
Make a habit of keeping a pair of scissors or a small hand pruner in your pocket. Removing spent flowers and cutting back lanky foliage helps gardens stay tidy and focuses attention on what looks good rather than what doesn't. Deadheading encourages annuals to keep flowering and will sometimes get perennials, such as achillea, campanula, dianthus, and phlox to bloom again. For many perennials, a mid-season haircut will stimulate a fresh flush of foliage. It's a great technique for perennial geraniums, nepeta, lady’s mantle, and coreopsis.