About Garden Flowers

It may seem challenging to create a garden of beautiful flowers that grows well and looks great, but once you learn the basics of garden flowers it's a snap. Knowing the facts about your soil and geography make choosing flowers for your garden an easy task.

About Garden Flowers
Bleeding heart; all photos by Nancy Yos
Overview
There is a nearly limitless range of flowers to choose from when planning a garden. But some work better than others, depending on variables such as rain, sun, heat and length of growing season. Knowing your climate zone and a little about the soil and micro-climates of your yard will help you choose beautiful plants that are right for your space.
Hardiness Zone
The United States Department of Agriculture has divided the North American continent (plus Hawaii) into 10 climate zones, based on lowest average winter temperatures in each zone. (See "Resources" below.) Knowing the hardiness zone where you live will help you sow annual flower seeds or buy young plants at the right time of the year (after all danger of frost is past). Knowledge about your hardiness zone also will help you choose perennial plants that can survive the winter in your area and come up again in spring.
Annuals and Perennials
Annuals are colorful, usually small flowering plants that, in all but the warmest climates, must be planted fresh every spring. Petunias, begonias, impatiens, pansies, marigolds and salvias are among the common annuals that will bloom until frost kills the plants. Perennials die down in fall but their roots survive and send out new shoots in spring. Easy to maintain and often native to the United States, perennials tend to be bigger but not as showy as annuals. They generally bloom only once a season. Coneflowers, Shasta daisies, Asiatic lilies and poppies are all examples of perennials.
Spring Bulbs
The first color in your garden likely will come from spring bulbs, such as crocus, tulips, daffodils and jonquils. Bulbs should be planted in fall to bloom the next spring. Don't plant bulbs too deep-- bout 4 or 5 inches is enough. After the flowers finish blooming, leave the green growth alone. The leaves are the source of food for the bulbs' rejuvenation next year. When the leaves yellow, you may remove them.
Microclimates and Soil
Your yard is full of microclimates--small sections whose varying amounts of sunlight, rainfall and wind protection will affect plant growth. A shady corner will be good for lily of the valley. A sunny yard partly sheltered by a tree will keep a patch of soil dry enough for lavender. Average garden soil will do for most plants, but very rich soil will promote annuals' leaf growth at the expense of flower production. Roses demand bright sunshine and very good soil.
Growing Season
It's a challenge to keep the garden colorful for an entire growing season. By August, many perennials are finished, and tired annuals look "leggy"--a bit long-limbed and scraggly. Bright geraniums help; if they are in pots, move these around to accent the garden's bare spots. Mums and autumn crocuses, planted in spring, also will lend color in late summer and into fall.
Unusual choices
Unusual flowers will make your garden stand out. Bleeding heart, love in the mist, and stock are all interesting old-fashioned choices. Corn or kaffir lilies are unique, as are unusual shrubs like bottlebrush or flowering maple.
Resources
reference
The Complete Garden Flower Book: Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, Shrubs, Climbers; Murdoch Books; 2001
resource
USDA plant hardiness zone map
resource
U.S. National Arboretum photo gallery

Image Reference - About Garden Flowers