Well-designed perennial beds may give the impression that these carefree plants provide a splash of color all summer, but that isn't exactly true. Unlike annuals that tend to bloom from spring until fall, flowering perennials typically have their own blooming season, that may last from a a short week or two to a month or more, depending on the perennials. The trick to creating a perennial bed that provides color all summer lies in carefully selecting flowers so that at least one is in bloom at all times.
Check the amount of light your gardening area receives by observing the path of the sun throughout the day. Pay close attention to deciduous trees. What appears to be a sunny location in the early spring, before deciduous trees are in full foliage, may suddenly become shrouded in shade under the canopy of foliage in the summer. The amount of light the location receives determines which perennials can be expected to thrive in the bed.
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Make a list of perennials that appeal to you with light requirements closely matched to your bed. Typically, light is referred to as full sun, or 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day; partial sun, or 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day; partially shady, or 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight a day; or full shade, or less than 2 hours of direct sunlight a day.
Plan out what colors you want for your perennial bed. While some prefer to plant flowers in several shades of the same hue, others prefer to plant flowers with sharp contrast by choosing colors on the opposite side of the color wheel. Still others enjoy assortment of colors that create an ever-changing pattern throughout the summer.
Divide the perennials on your list into categories according to size. Typically plants taller than 36 inches are considered tall, those between 18 to 24 inches are medium and those shorter than 12 to 18 inches are considered short, but height is relative and definitions differ among gardeners, so there is some wiggle room when choosing flowers of varying heights.
Lay out your garden design on sketch paper to get an idea of how it will look with all of the plants together. Although your drawing doesn't need to be to scale, it should allow you to make a rough estimate of the number of flowers that will fit within the size of your garden. Use the plant spacing instructions on seed packets or plant identification labels as a guide.
Plant the tallest flowers in the background, if the perennial bed will be viewed from one angle. If the bed will be viewed from multiple angles, plant them in the center of the bed. This prevents large plants from overshadowing smaller ones.
Add medium-sized mounding plants in front of the tall plants in beds viewed from one angle. For those viewed from multiple angles, plant the medium plants around the tall ones.
Plant the smallest plants in the foreground of the garden bed.