Perennials for Colour Through the Season
Perennials for Constant Colour
Perennials are a great addition to any garden. In fact, they form the backbone or many a flower garden.
Once the larger 'bones' of the garden (house, trees, hardscape, flower bed placement) are in place, the flowers are planned and added. Perennials are the 'backbone' of this phase of design as they are the points of focus that will grow and bloom in your garden from year to year.
Perennials are, generally, easy to plant and maintain. With a little careful planning you can have colour throughout the whole season.
What Exactly is a Perennial, Anyhow
Perennial-A perennial is a plant that grows year after year from the same root. A herbacsous perennial will die down to the ground each winter.
Perennials are great for providing the structure of a flower garden. Choose plants that have the height colour, shape, etc that you want for your garden plan and there will be a perennial to fit the need. You can also make choices so that you have colour through the whole growing season.
Start With A Plan
Whether your garden is new, or if you just want to spruce it up for more colour through perennials, the plan is the place to start.
Draw the shape of your garden on graph paper. Mark in those things you havae to or want to keep. So that the house (probably ;-) ), driveway, large trees, sheds, patio, shrubes, etc. Then draw circles to show the drip line (furthest branches) of the trees and shrubs at their full size. You want to do this because you need to plan for the future and things under the drip line will need to be shade or semi-shade lovers.
Draw in the plants you already have, again showing a circle to their full size.
Take note of the type of soil you have in your garden. Some plants have specific requirements.
Now you can start to plan. Mark in where you want perennials, noting the height, size, colour and bloom time you want. Take your time, this is importatn. You want to have a garden with constant colour, not just a spring splash.
Get to Know What is Available
Go to the nursery and see what they have. Take notes. You want to take note of the following for any perennial that interests you:
Height - The height helps determine whether a plant is suitable for an edging (under12 inches), for the middle of a bed (12-36 inches), or as a background plant (36 inches or taller). Be careful, varieties within a type of plant can vary - for example, Campanulas range from 8 inches to 30 inches tall.
Bloom Period - The month or months when the plant blooms is important so that you can plant to have continuous colour in your garden..
Colour, Texture and Form - Some perennials come only in certain colours, some in a wide range, so again, be careful to read about the variety. They also come in a wide array of textures and shapes. All of these factors add to garden interest.
- Full sun - at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
- Semi-shade - either a long period of light shade or dense shade in the afternoon. These ususallyl need shade during the hottest part of the day.
- Shade - continuous shade and no direct sun.
- Well drained - for these plants, periods of standing water will kill them. In heavy soil, add lots of organic matter to ensure drainage. Consider raised beds.
- Moist, but well drained - these do not tolerate drying, but also don't like water standing around their roots. Need regular watering during dry periods.
- Dry - will not tolerate moist conditions for long, preferring to dry out between waterings.
- Wet - will tolerate boggy conditions or even standing water.
The photo is of some of the perennials we sell at our garden centre. Its such a treat to me to get to work with things I love.
Perennials in Our GardenClick thumbnail to view full-size
Borders are those long, rectangular (ish), 2 to 4 feet deep beds against a wll, house or walk. They are usually viewed from only one side so a well-defined front edge is very important.
Island bed is a bed that floats in a "sea" of lawn and usually has an irregular shape. It should have gentle curves and no sharp corners. This is a bed that is designed to be viewed from all sides (tallest plants in the center of the bed and shortest around the edges). They look best when generous in size. (eg. 8 by15', with tallest plants about five').
Shade gardens are usually irregularly-shaped, to follow the natural shade patterns.
Design through Colour
You can accomplish different objectives through careful selection of perennials for colour.
Create a theme garden. You could choose to have a pink or yellow garden bed to highlight the front walk of your yard. A nice idea is the moonlight garden-a garden of all white flowers, focusing on the pale flowers and scent.
Plant to have colour through the growing season. There are perennials that start to bloom as early as the early bulbs (Foam flower) as well as many to accompany spring, summer, and fall flowering shrubs.
- spring - Basket-of-gold, bleeding heart, columbine, forget-me-not, hellebore, lady's mantle, and Solomon's seal
- early summer - Coreopsis, Peonies and poppies
- summer - Bellflower, Black-eyed Susan, blanketflower coreopsis, crocosmia, daylilies, Shasta daisy, evening primrose, gaura, hardy geranium, hollyhock, mallow, veronica.
- late summer - Astilbe, boltonia, coreopsis, crocosmia, echinacea, liatris, yarrow, and Japanese anemone
- autumn - Aster, dahlia, goldenrod, mum, and sedum