15 Tips For Creating a Garden That Blooms All Season long
Are you looking to create a garden that effortlessly blooms throughout the season? There are several things you can do to ensure your garden has plenty of flowers, no matter your hardiness zone. In this article, certified master gardener Laura Elsner shares her top tips for creating a garden that flowers throughout the entire growing season.
Great gardens that are always in bloom and have interest year-round do not happen by accident. It takes time and planning to have a perfectly timed garden. It doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it often doesn’t even happen in one season.
Starting with a plan is the most important part of a garden that’s consistently in bloom. It’s important to have a mix of many different types of flowering plants. You can use annual flowers, or perennial flowers, depending on your goals and planting schedule.
If you’ve been looking for answers on how to put together the perfect garden with year-round blooms, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve put together a list of my top tips that will help keep bright, beautiful flowers in your garden all season long. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in!
My number one tip for a garden that blooms all season long is to plant a variety of perennials that have different bloom times. Most perennials have a 2-3 week blooming period. If you stack all your perennials to bloom at one time during the season, you will be left with a garden of greenery the rest of the season.
I often see this when an eager gardener goes to the garden center and picks all the most beautiful blooms in the store. This means you are picking all things that are in bloom at the same time.
Choose a few plants because of their blooms but look at the rest of the plants and choose them because of the blooms on their tags. Also pay close attention to the bloom period on the tag. If it doesn’t say, do a quick online search.
Also, some plants you can purchase from nurseries will be in bloom at the wrong time. Perhaps they were grown in a greenhouse and got a jump on the season. If the plant is perennial, it will bloom at the correct time for your zone the following season.
Plan for Spring in the Fall
The best spring gardens are actually planted in the fall. Spring bulbs will be purchased and planted in fall. Some of the most early blooming perennials are fall planted bulbs. Some popular choices are crocus, snowdrops, and hyacinth. Get these into the ground in the fall to enjoy early spring blossoms.
Dividing the Seasons
Spring, summer, fall, and winter are the typical four seasons. But I like to split the spring and summer seasons even further when it comes to blooming perennials. I find early spring and late summer are often overlooked for blooms when there are tons of options.
Early Spring is when all your fall-planted bulbs start to come up and bloom. Hellebores and hepatica are a great winter-early spring flowers to consider adding to your garden. Forsythia and cherry blossoms are early flowering shrubs.
Late Spring is the garden’s heyday. This is when the big garden perennials are in bloom. This includes peonies, Irises, allium, and oriental poppies. Normally you don’t have to think too much about getting blooms at this time, this is when the explosion happens.
Early Summer is when your spring garden starts to transition into a summer garden. This change over usually happens quite seamlessly because the next group of flowers are usually abundant in gardens. This includes delphinium, shasta daisy, hydrangea, and lavender.
Late summer happens after all the summer flowers start to fade. This time of year requires some planning. There are lots of late summer options, just make sure you include them in your garden. My favorite late summer blooming plants that pack some punch are Joe Pye weed, ligularia, bugbane and coneflowers.
Don’t Neglect Fall Blooms
Now that spring and summer are covered, do not forget about fall. Gardens don’t end when fall begins. I know a lot of people that forget about this magical season.
Make sure to have some interest in the fall. Some of my favorites include rudbeckia, sunflowers, asters, and Autumn Joy Sedum.
You can also use plants that have changing leaves that add color. Maples are the kings of fall foliage. But don’t forget about other perennials that fade in a blaze of color like Virginia creeper.
Plant Long Blooming Perennials
While I said that most perennials bloom for a 2-3 week period, there are always exceptions to the rule. There are some perennials, like a peony, that are spectacular, but fairly short lived. Then there are perennials that seem to last forever. Even after the initial bloom is done, the structure and interest remains intact.
‘Stella D’oro’ daylily is a great long-lasting perennial. Once it starts blooming it will continue blooming for weeks and weeks throughout the summer.
Lavender will stay bluish purple for a long time throughout the summer.
Coneflowers will last from late summer through to the fall. The sturdy flowers will open and remain beautiful for months.
‘Annabelle’ hydrangea is a great flowering shrub. The gigantic white balls of flowers will last for months and look great.
Sea holly and globe thistle both will last months in a garden. The spiny and heavily structured flowers stay bright and intact for weeks after their initial bloom period.
Plant Different Varieties of the Same Perennials
This works with certain varieties of perennials. The one that really comes to mind is peonies. They are one of the shortest lived, yet most spectacular blooms in the garden. We put so much effort into it’s 2 week bloom period. There is a way to extend the bloom time of peonies, well sort of. There are differing bloom times on different varieties.
Fernleaf peonies are one of the earliest blooming peonies. They are up and blooming in the early spring. A classic peony, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, will bloom in the mid spring range. Then big bright yellow ‘Bartzella’ will bloom in the late spring.
If you can find a combination of slightly different bloom times on your peony, you will extend your peony season by a few weeks.
This is also possible with other perennials. Like daylilies, Irises, delphiniums, and astilbes. Do some searching to find which varieties are early, mid, or late, and then stagger the different varieties to make it seem like your flowers are blooming for longer.
Fill Up Your Beds
I like a full flower bed, this is a matter of personal preference. But if you always want something blooming, it makes sense to fill your beds.
I will plant allium bulbs in my hosta beds in the fall, that way I have purple lollipops of allium bloom while my hostas are just emerging.
I’ll make sure to have plants that will fill in and cover over tulips that have already bloomed. I like to use lady’s mantle or columbine as perennials that can cover the space occupied by spring bulbs that become nothing by summer.
If you are planting plants that will disappear by summer, plant them in a river or wave instead of a block. This way other plants can seamlessly bloom and fill in around them and you won’t end up with a big bald spot in your garden. I do this with grape hyacinth, I plant a blue river snake through my garden. Then it disappears and other plants fill in.
Layer Stunning Foliage
I love using foliage in a garden as contrast. The thing about foliage is that it will remain a constant in your garden. Some of the most stunning gardens I’ve seen actually don’t rely too heavily on flowers for interest. Instead, they focus on the colors and textures of the foliage, and the flowers are just the icing on the cake.
When you are choosing a plant for your garden look at all of its aspects. Are the leaves big and round, narrow and grassy, or ferny and loose? A plant with big round leaves, like a hosta, looks great when paired with something with long and grassy foliage like black mondo grass.
Or try it with something ferny and airy, like a Japanese painted fern. The different textures of the foliage will really make things stand out. When shopping for plants takes notice of the different foliage shapes and textures and try to combine them (just in the shopping cart) and see how they look together.
Of course, color is another aspect of foliage. Choose interesting foliage colors to break up all the green in your garden. Choose either patterned foliage, like lungwort, hostas, and bunnera.
These perennials have spots and/or designs in their foliage that can really draw attention. Or you can choose perennials that have richly colored foliage, like coral bells, angelina sedum, and coleus. These plants are spectacular and look beautiful without even flowering. Mix them into your garden to break up the green.
Choose Plants that Die Beautifully
I love plants that will hold up through winter and keep looking interesting if not beautiful. So, choose plants who have skeletons that don’t turn to mush. Hostas, peonies, and delphiniums are beautiful perennials. But once they finish blooming and the frost hits them, they become mush.
I’m willing to have a bit of mushy dead plants in my garden for the sake of their beauty in their season. But I also make sure I have some perennials that add to my winter landscape, and I keep them up through the winter.
Of course, trees and shrubs are the true skeletons of the garden, but there are also some lovely perennial options that look great even after they bloom.
Russian sage is silver with almost glowing lavender purple flowers. It looks great when it blooms in the summer and then it just seems to freeze in time through the fall and winter months.
Karl Foerster grass is one of my favorite all season plant. While it doesn’t bloom a traditional flower, the wheat-like seed heads add interest and beauty to the landscape. Leave it up all winter and then cut it down in the spring. I sometimes only cut the grass every second spring if they are not fully mature. The grass will mix in with the old stalks for a stunning effect.
Allium heads, while they won’t last through winter, can last much longer than their flower. The seed pods have a funky, out-of-this world quality that can last through the summer months.
Don’t Neglect Annual Flowers
Making use of annuals in your garden can keep your garden in constant bloom. I don’t have a huge budget for annuals, but I always sneak some into my garden to keep my garden in bloom all season long.
There are many ways to include annual flowers into your garden. Many annual flowers have longer bloom times, which will extend your flowers into the fall.
Containers full of annuals is a great way to seamlessly add flowers into your garden. This way you can create a focal point and really play with the exact color combination you like. A bold pop of color in your garden.
Border annuals are another option. This involves planting a line of annuals along the front of a garden bed. Pansies, wax begonias, impatiens, or alyssum work great for this it makes a perfect crisp border of flowers.
Pops of annuals throughout your beds is another options. This is great to fill in holes in your garden, or leave a space for big bold flowers. I like to plant in little groupings of 3, 5, or 7s so the flowers can be noticed from a distance. This works great with bigger flowered annuals like geraniums and tuberous begonias.
Observe & Take Notes
Gardening is a test in patience. It is not an instant gratification endeavor. If you notice something in your garden isn’t quite right, jot it down. I keep a little notebook for this purpose. A garden diary of sorts.
If I don’t do this I won’t remember, then the next year rolls around and I will remember that something was missing. If there is a period of time in your garden that isn’t blooming, write it down. I’ve made the mistake of making a note in my head but then forgetting.
This resulted in two full years before I corrected the problem. A little note pad that you can jot down notes and review will help you improve your garden for next year.
Before you head to a nursery or garden center review your notes and find plants that will fill in your bloom gaps.
Another thing I do is notice what other people in the neighborhood are growing. Take a walk and snap some photos or write some notes. I have even been known to knock on a door and ask what a plant is. I’ve also had my door knocked on to discuss plants. Gardeners usually love talking about their gardens.
Plant in Groups
Most perennials I plant I will plant in groups of 3, 5, or 7. Odd numbers are more visually pleasing. Planting in groups will add impact. I find gardens look cluttered and busy if you just have one of everything blooming. If you add groups of plants it looks bold.
To add even more impact try planting 3-5 groups of 3 of the same plant along a garden border. This will make a wave of uniform color through your garden.
Flowering Shrubs and Trees
Don’t forget about flowering trees and shrubs to add blossom appeal. Fruit trees and shrubs are always nice to add. They will blossom in the spring and set fruit in the fall. If you’re not into picking fruit and don’t like the mess, look for varieties that don’t produce big fruit or berries.
There are also lots of options for flowering trees and shrubs with no fruit, like lilacs and rhododendrons. When they are in bloom, they are the stars of the garden.
Also consider other features that are attractive besides blooms in trees and shrubs. Like beautiful berries or colorful fall foliage.
Layer With Roses
When I started gardening professionally, I hated roses. Mostly because the thorns and the pruning. Why would anyone want them I always thought. But, as I grew as a gardener and eventually became a master gardener (and bought thick gloves for rose pruning) I grew to see their appeal.
Healthy, well-maintained roses will bloom throughout the season. Make sure to deadhead and fertilize them to promote blooms.
Roses are an easy way to keep your garden blooming. Once you get the hang of pruning, it’s really not so bad. There are also rose varieties available for all zones making them accessible for all gardeners.
Use Multiple Levels
A beautiful garden uses all levels. This means low lying ground covers, shorter perennials, tall perennials and shrubs, and then trees and vines. Using all these levels will make more opportunities for blooms. It also adds depth and makes your garden more interesting and appealing.
I love to have a few things in different levels blooming at the same time. For instance creeping time makes a purple carpet of flowers around the same time taller lilac trees are in bloom. Then the mid range of the garden might not be in bloom and that’s ok.
Great gardens take planning and time. Don’t get discouraged if you find your garden isn’t performing how you would like it to. Make sure everything is growing in their ideal conditions and then follow some or all of my tips to get your garden blooming all season long.