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Three Seasons of Color

Updated: Feb 2

Plant combinations for gardens that bloom from spring through fall

"I want something in bloom all year long"- a request made by the majority of my clients. It's the goal of most gardeners; to plan their gardens so that something is flowering from the first signs of spring through the end fall. But this relatively simple concept can be difficult to coordinate- especially when you have hundreds of plants to choose from.

I've narrowed down the list to some of my favorite combinations of perennials and shrubs that are low maintenance and easy to find at local garden centers.

A note on winter: I have an entire blog post dedicated to winter gardens! This article includes a list of plants that will add color to an otherwise dreary landscape.

A note on early spring: If you live in WNY you know that we don't have much of a spring. March and April can see temperature swings from the mid-sixties down to the single digits. For that reason I don't give much garden space to early-spring blooming perennials. We aren't spending extended time outdoors and the occasional April snow showers end up burying the few plants that do bloom this time of year. Instead I go for bulbs: they are showy, don't require much care, and aren't as vulnerable to those late frosts we seem to get.

And don't forget our non-flowering friends! There are a ton of plants whose leaves that add pops of color and texture to the garden. I tried to include some in each combo.

Before we begin, here are The Seasons According to Nora:

early spring- March to mid-April

spring- mid-April to mid-May

early summer- mid-May to early July

mid-summer- early July to mid/late August

late summer- late August through September

fall- end of September to early November

winter- November to April


Plant Combinations for Three Seasons of Color

Combo 1: The Classics

Even the most novice gardener will recognize the plants in this garden.

spring: daffodils (8), tulips (2)

early summer: salvia (5), peonies (6)

mid-summer: helenium (7), yarrow (1)

late summer: verbena (12), penstemon (9)

fall: aster (10), sedum (3)

non-flowering interest: artemisia (11), blue fescue (4)

Combo 2: Greens & Whites

A timeless color combination that brings a calming beauty to your yard.

spring: tulip (2), hyacinth (6)

early summer: lady's mantle (8), rose (10)

mid-summer: hydrangea (1), phlox (5)

late summer: shasta daisy (9), anemone (4)

fall: mum (7), ornamental kale (3)

non-flowering interest: lamb's ear (12), hosta (11)

Combo 3: Butterflies, Birds, & Bees

These native perennials attract bees and butterflies alike. The kicker? Deer tend to avoid these varieties as well!

spring: allium (12), baptisia (5)

early summer: bee balm (6), hardy geranium (3), butterfly weed (9)

mid-summer: purple coneflower (4), rudbeckia (8)

late summer: liatris (7), coreopsis (2), bluebeard (11)

fall: New England aster (10), blanket flower (1)

Combo 4: Shady Spots

Colorful solutions for your part-sun to shady areas. A reminder: this is not a fix for "deep shade" (areas that do not get any direct sunlight).

early spring: hellebore (4)

late spring: brunerra (8), bergenia (7)

early summer: mountain laurel (5), lady's mantle (9), astilbe (1)

mid-summer: ligularia (12), coral bells (11)

late summer: turtlehead (3), cardinal flower (6)

fall: viola (10)

non-flowering interest: Japanese forest grass (2)

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