Flowers serve as clothing and accessories for your home. They can accent one area, conceal another and outline a third. Flowers can create an island of peace and relaxation or provide a wake-up call to the senses. Careful planning will allow your flower garden to be in bloom for most of the year.
There are two main types of flowers: annuals and perennials. According to horticulturalist Anne Streich, "Annuals are non-woody plants that complete their life cycle in one season, ending with seed production (Reference 1)." Zinnias, marigolds, cosmos daisies, portulacas, four o'clocks, petunias, statice and impatiens are all examples of annual flowers.
Perennials live at least three seasons. The University of Arizona Master Gardener Manual states "the leaves, stems and flowers die back to the ground each fall with the first frost or freeze. The roots persist through the winter and every spring, new plant tops arise (Reference 2)." Perennials include canna, calla and tiger lilies; gladiolus, carnation, dahlia, iris, daffodil and chrysanthemum.
True annuals are grown from seed. Some varieties are self-seeding, making them appear to be perennials. Cosmos, zinnias, marigolds and four o'clocks are self-seeding flowers. They will reappear year after year unless you cover your flower bed with a deep layer of mulch over a weed barrier, such as black plastic or newspaper.
Perennials can also be grown from seed, but will not provide their best display until the third year. Perennials propagate best through division. Perennials grow from bulbs, corms, tuberous roots or rhizomes. New bulbs form on the sides of an existing bulb, near the bottom. Corms, which look like tiny bulbs, form near the top. Rhizomes grow underground from an enlarged root and must have at least one "eye" when divided. Tuberous roots are simply separated (Reference 3).
Flowers range in color from an almost-black purple to paper white. Tulips and roses come in the widest range of natural colors. According to Leonard P. Perry, "colors really exist ... (for) insects and other pollinators. ... Pollination, and subsequent fruit production, is the main purpose of most flowers (Resource 1)."
Some flowers, such as statice, a ruffled blue bloom used in many flower arrangements, come in just one or two colors. Others, such as hydrangeas, change color according to their age, the time of day and the characteristics of the soil around them. Toss a handful of rusty bolts at the base of each bush and your hydrangea will change from white or pink to robin's egg blue.
Sunflowers are the tallest flowers and usually have the largest blooms. The tallest sunflower as of 2004, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was grown in the Netherlands and measured 25 feet. Sunflowers usually reach 4 to 6 feet. Jewel box celosia, also known as coxcomb, is one of the shortest flowers. Its ruffled, chicken-comb shape is used to create borders in fall gardens.
Crocus and grape hyacinth vie for first place in your winter garden, pushing their way through the ground as soon as the snow melts. Icicle pansies have been known to bloom throughout the winter in the Midwest, especially in southern Ohio. Tulips and daffodils follow crocus to provide more spring color. Roses and other cane flowers appear between late spring and late fall, with the tea rose having the most abundant and longest-lasting blooms. Later-blooming gladioluses, cannas and tiger lilies provide a bridge between early spring and late summer, after which chrysanthemums become the star of the show.