One of the most challenging aspect of designing a wildlife garden is figuring out sequence of bloom, always having something blooming in your garden, not only for color and interest but also to provide food sources for local wildlife.
While trees and shrubs are the backbone of any garden, those that flower do so for very short periods of time. When you consider that most perennials bloom for 3 – 4 weeks, it’s no wonder mastering sequence of bloom is such challenge.
Start With a Plan
Make a list of all the plants, and their bloom times, you currently have in your garden. Grab a piece of paper and create a column for each month and one for your list of plants.
Add your current plants in the rows and color in the month, or portion of the month, in which they bloom. This isn’t an exact science so don’t worry about being too precise. Before you know it, you’ll see some patterns developing.
Note when you need more color. If you’re like many gardeners, you’ll have loads of color in the late spring and throughout the summer but you might find you’re light on color, and nectar sources, in the late winter, early spring and fall.
Make a list of native plants that bloom during your garden’s down time. Check with reliable local sources for the best options for your garden.
Pollinators prefer different types of flowers so strive for a variety of flowers in different colors, sizes and shapes during each season.
Look for double-duty plants – those that are larval host plants or offer berries or fruit later in the season.
Finalize your list and take it with you when you go plant shopping. Remember to shop throughout each growing season since many nurseries tend to stock plants that are in bloom. It can be next to impossible to find fall-blooming plants like Solidago in the spring.
Be strong and resist the blooming eye-candy. Buy what’s on your list!
Color, Color Everywhere
If you garden in Connecticut or one of the other New England states, here’s a short list of natives – listed by sequence of bloom, to get you started.
Erythronium americanum (yellow trout-lily)
Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)
Geranium maculatum (wild geranium)
Tiarella cordifolia (foamflower)
Asclepias tuberosa (common milkweed)
Campanula rotundifolia (harebell)
Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove beardtongue)
Monarda fistulosa (bee balm)
Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver’s root)
Eutrochium purpureum (Joe Pye weed)
Rudbeckia hirta (Brown-eyed Susan)
Helenium autumnale (common sneezeweed)
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘Fanny’s Aster’ (Aster ‘Fanny’).
To find native plants for your garden, check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s native plant database.
Combine plants with similar bloom times and repeat or build on these combinations throughout your garden.
Plant in multiples to better attract pollinators and make your garden sing.
Right plant, right place still applies – Always keep in mind your garden’s specific cultural requirements when choosing and siting plants.
Have fun. Mastering sequence in bloom is a process. Embrace your victories, build on your mistakes and enjoy the wildlife all the colorful flowers entice into your garden.
© 2013, Debbie Roberts. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.