Create the ultimate garden with four seasons of nonstop bloom by carefully selecting perennial plants that will thrive year round in your U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone. Perennial plants are those that return in your garden every year. Choose plants that are easy to care for and will naturalize in your garden to keep the show going year after year, season after season. Look for plants that will bloom in succession to prevent bare spots in your garden.
Tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, peony, bleeding heart, columbine and crocus are some of the earliest spring blooming plants. Look for varieties that bloom early in the season and those that bloom midseason and late in the season to keep the show going from late February through early June. The ideal time to plant flowers that bloom in the spring is the fall; however, in recent years, nurseries and mail-order companies have started offering pre-chilled bulbs that are suitable for spring planting. Be aware that during the first year these plants may require some type of support, such as stakes, to prevent them from flopping, since the root system did not have adequate time to establish itself over winter.
Roses, yarrow, Monarda, Echinacea, phlox and black-eyed Susan are nonstop bloomers that can handle the heat of summer and attract a wide variety of beneficial insects and birds into the garden. To encourage these plants to keep blooming, deadhead, or cut off, the faded flowers before they set seed. Roses require regular fertilization, deep watering and frequent deadheading to keep them looking good. The exception to this rule is the Knock-Out series of roses. These roses thrive on neglect and bloom from early summer right up to the first fall frost even if you don't deadhead them.
Chrysanthemum, asters, goldenrod, Joe-Pye weed and sedum are the stars of the fall garden. The blooms come in a variety of colors that complement the season. These colors include shades of brown, yellow, orange and reds. Deadhead the flowers as they fade unless you want them to go to seed. The dried flowers do create interest in the winter garden. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies will visit many of these flowers for one last sip of natural nectar before they migrate south for the winter.
The winter garden is often overlooked, especially by northern gardeners. Once the first fall frost kills the garden, plants such as hellebore and camellia begin blooming. Later in the winter, perennial plants such as lungwort, winter aconite and snowdrops emerge and burst into bloom. Careful selection of winter blooming plants is essential to the success of gardening outdoors out of season.