Creating a garden is more than just aesthetics. The plants won’t mean much if they’ll end up wilting, freezing, decaying, or dieing. So before you plant your garden, consider your climate first.
Climate maps, such as this one, shows low-temperature extremes by zone throughout the United States.
What are Zones?
Not the twilight zone, but a plant’s zone! When a gardening book or plant’s tag references a zone, it generally means that a plant is hardy to an area’s temperature extremes. Zones have been indicated for all trees and perennials and the hardiness zone scale below shows a geographically defined area in which a plant is capable of surviving, including its ability to withstand extreme temperatures. These zones were first developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and have since been adopted elsewhere.
These zones are only guidelines, however. Sunset Books (associated with Sunset magazine) publishes a series of gardening books that breaks up climate zones more finely than the USDA zones by taking into consideration ranges of temperatures in ALL seasons, including precipitation, wind patterns, elevation, and length and structure of the growing season.
What’s Your Zone?
So you’re thinking, well that’s all good to know, but how do I know what zone I live in? The Arbor Day Foundation’s website has a form online where you can enter your zip code and it will display your area’s hardiness zone. It also has suggested trees and perennial suggestions for your area.
Finding the Perfect Plants For Your Garden
Once you know what zone you live in, have fun searching out the many wonderous plants that thrive in your climate. There are several places to turn to help you in your research. One particular site I had fun with is at Sunset.com. They have a new garden tool to help you choose the right flowers and plants for your climate, your yard, and your personal gardening style.