Planting Perfect Perennials
Perennials are the most delightful and the most disappointing group of plants that we gardeners enjoy.
Delightful because they come in such a myriad of forms, shapes and sizes and they are some of the most dazzling of flowers available. Disappointing because, in most cases, their beauty is so fleeting. For many of them, there are 49 weeks of care and anticipation for 3 weeks of spectacular bloom. Somehow it always seems worth it as these 3 pictures from spring, summer and fall, illustrate.
What’s Are They Anyway?
In the gardening game, herbaceous perennials (to use their full name,) are defined as those plants that live for several years, surviving the winter as underground roots, stems or bulbs while the foliage and flowers die to the ground each year. There are huge books that list the names and features of the thousands of such plants that are used in our gardens and I have neither the time nor the space to do a definitive look at them on these pages. I’ll give you an overview of their use and a look at some of the most widely used and, of course, let you know what my favourites are.
Why Would I Plant Them?
You plant them for the excitement. Each day I walk out of the house and the
containers of annuals
are filled with whatever colour I chose for them this year. That is their job. Constant splashes of colour. I reach the perennial beds and search with great anticipation to see what is new and different since I looked there yesterday. From the first Snowdrop in the spring to the succulent Sedum in the autumn, every day brings new excitement. It’s not just when they bloom but as each new plant emerges from the soil, it reminds you, that it is still there and will soon be dazzling us with its blooms. You look between the Daffodil blooms to see the
deep red leaves of the Peonies
unfolding and the
fresh green swords of Iris fans
stabbing toward the sun and as always, playing the tease, the late arrival of the lily clusters.
What Should I Plant?
Plant what you like; is the easy answer but not very helpful. There are so many different types, sizes and colours that it’s impossible to answer that question directly. Consider a few factors. How big is your garden? (That’s never going to be big enough.) Is it in the sun or the shade? Are there times of the gardening season that you are usually away on vacation? There is little point in nurturing a lovely perennial if its bloom time coincides with your vacation. How can I choose enough variety so that something is in bloom during most of the gardening season?
A good perennial bed takes some research and planning to ensure that constant parade of bloom and a pleasing mixture of sizes and textures. You can always take the haphazard approach and just find a plant whose picture appeals to you, bring it home and stick it in and see what develops. Even the most careful of planners find themselves standing in the middle of their garden with a new pot that called their name as they walked past it and now we have to decide where to put it.
How Much Work Is It?
No gardening is work. It’s all just fun and therapeutic. You really want to know , just how much fun will a perennial bed take. Obviously, the establishment of a new bed takes some effort. The plants are going to be there for several years so creating good soil in the beginning is essential. The following years are a matter of trying to find space for the next new one you have just discovered,
controlling weeds, (mulch is wonderful,)
and digging and renewing your perennials when needed. That process is a whole story unto itself but two of my favourites,
Iris (left picture,)
Peony (right picture,)
illustrate the range. The Iris do best when dug up and divided every 3 - 5 years while a good Peony clump will happily stay in place and bloom well for 20+ years.
Plan - Prepare - Purchase - Plant
Then enjoy the unfolding excitement for years to come.
Epimedium, delightful and delicate for dry shady locations
Hosta - the perfect shade plant and easy to grow
You can search my entire site for answers to your other gardening mysteries.
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