Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
March, 2014
Regional Report

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Having plants in bloom from spring through fall will also provide a lasting banquet of nectar for visiting butterflies like this swallowtail.

Continous Color in the Flower Garden

From early March when the forsythia first bursts into bloom, to around mid-October when the last anemone dies back, a flower garden can be a constantly changing display of color. But how do you manage to do this?

Creating stunning displays of color throughout the growing season is easier than you might think. You don't need acres of land or a professional grounds crew to manage it, because continuous color does not mean that everything in the garden is in bloom all of the time. You just need to make smart choices so that enough plants are flowering at any one time to create an impression of sustained color throughout the garden. Use these ideas to get you started in creating your garden of continuous bloom.

Choose Plant Partners
Perennials are the backbone of many flower gardens, but most bloom for an average of only about three weeks. Extend their show by supplementing them with annuals, biennials, vines, bulbs, and a few flowering shrubs. Such a diverse collection inevitably includes plants of different sizes and shapes that can be tucked in and around each other, allowing you to pack a surprising number of plants into a small area.

Plant in Layers
Space plants with different bloom times very closely together. For example, plant early-blooming bulbs and forget-me-nots right next to iris, astilbes, and lilies, which will camouflage the early-flowering plants as they begin to die back. Also repeat groupings of the same plants throughout the garden to provide a sense of harmony in the landscape. One way to accomplish this is to cluster three to seven plants together in a group, and then repeat this same grouping in several areas around the landscape to create splashes of color.

The bold combination of pink and red shade-loving New Guinea impatiens makes an eye-catching partnership. They can provide color in a shady garden in early summer after the spring bulbs are spent.In a sunny bed, swaths of bearded iris, Asiatic lilies, and daylilies will becomes the midsummer highlight of the garden. As the iris, lilies, and daylilies flower begin to fade, let rudbeckia planted nearby take over as a focal point, drawing the eye to its daisy-like flowers.

Plant in Island Beds
Island beds surrounded by paths or lawn are much easier to maintain than deep borders and allow you to appreciate your flowers from several vantage points within the garden. Make the beds large enough to support a variety of plants, but small enough that you can easily reach everything when it's time to weed or deadhead.

Staging the Performance
Rather than planting everything that blooms at the same time in close proximity, distribute the groups of early-, mid-, and late-season bloomers around the garden. The result is flowers in all parts of the garden every month of the gardening season. They also draw the eye throughout the garden, creating the impression of an uninterrupted expanse of color.

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