A garden that blooms from early spring through summer into fall is a thing of beauty—and a solid accomplishment for any gardener. Perennials, the gardener's favorite because of their long lives, bloom only for certain weeks of the summer, but annuals provide bright color where they are planted for their entire, short lives, provided they are pinched and encouraged to bloom. The experienced gardener plants flowers by the season, during which they mature to produce a succession of bloom in the garden.
Make a map to scale of your garden, color-coding sun and shade areas, dry areas, and places that may tend to be damp. Cultivate the garden or border, and add enough compost or manure and peat moss to make the soil light and the right amount of lime or sulfur to achieve a pH of between 6. 5 and 7.0. Now you have a well-documented garden plot with friable, slightly acidic soil—just the kind of environment that a wide variety of flowers require.
Designate a few "anchors" for your border—long-lived perennials and bulbs that will establish color patterns for each part of the growing season. Daffodils may start off spring yellows and purples. Red and white peonies may begin early summer, multihued lilies may soften midsummer heat, and russet and orange chrysanthemums and asters may usher in fall. You may want the same colors throughout the summer; just look for perennials in those colors and note the bloom dates. Place anchor plants in groups of three or more divisions in places that meet their cultural requirements.
Find flowers that match the color scheme for each part of the season—iris for spring, daylilies and daisies for summer, coneflowers and sunflowers into fall—and add them to other parts of the garden or border. Again, use uneven numbers of each plant—it looks more natural. Arrange the tallest plants in the back and the shortest in the front. Do not try to fill in all the space—perennials and bulbs will need to be divided from time to time and will provide plenty of new plants.
Fill spaces with annuals that will bloom all season long to unify or lend contrast—blue lobelia to edge a border, tall zinnias to add late summer interest. Use geraniums—available in a wide range of colors—to fill in spaces where perennials have not yet expanded. Keep a list of how long each annual takes from germination to bloom to determine when its colors will join the succession of bloom in the garden.
Plant each plant at its optimum time in your growing zone. Perennials can usually be planted from August through September if they are to establish themselves for bloom the following spring. Roses can be planted in early spring, and annuals should be planted as soon as the last frost date passes—some seeds can be planted indoors as much as eight weeks before the last frost. Spring bulbs should always be planted in the fall along with biennial seeds and native wildflowers. Planting at recommended times ensures strong growth and dependable bloom times.