Everywhere you turn there is someone touting the joys of perennial gardens on televisions, in print or over your backyard fence. Just what the heck is all this talk about and should you have a perennial garden in your yard? Simply stated the answer is Yes!
Investing in perennials is an investment in tomorrow. All perennials will spread as they grow from year to year. They will increase in size and in the number of blooms produced each season. In a few short years, you will be rewarded with an array of plants ranging from one end of the colour spectrum to the other.
There are literally thousands of different types of plants that fall into this category so the choices are endless. They come in such a variety of shape, size, colour and texture that one can create many different looks for any yard, be it a large estate or the tiniest townhouse plot.
Since there are so many choices when looking at perennials it is very, very important to make a planting plan. These plants range in size from the tiny Scotch Moss (about 2" tall) to the gigantic Delphiniums (up to 6'). So you must know the final height of a plant in order to place them appropriately in your garden. You must also get to know the bloom period of each plant. Unlike annuals, which are chosen for their season long blooming, perennials generally bloom for only a month or so. Most people like to have a succession of blooms from earliest spring to the last fall frost so plant choices are important. You need to have a mix of plants in order to achieve this prolonged blooming. Another consideration is where are you going to put these things? Will the bed be sunny or shady? Perennials, just like annuals have their preferences and this should be taken into account when choosing your perennials.
Most perennials prefer a site that is in lots of sun and has well drained soil. There are many outstanding perennials that do well in shade, some will even grow beautifully where you cannot get grass to grow. Also there are others that like damp conditions, while some plants will grow through cracks in pavement.
The size of the bed should be taken into consideration. A good rule of thumb is to make the beds 1' deep for every 4' of length. So a garden that is 20' in length should be at least 5' deep. And if by chance you can make it deeper all the better. More room for big impressive masses of flowers and more plants of differing heights and textures as well as differing bloom periods.
Now, choosing which perennials to use in specific sites. There are a great number of books about perennials on the market, each geared to different levels and tastes. Also don't be afraid to talk to your neighbours or friends about any perennials that they may have in their gardens. Rare is the gardener that doesn't have a patch of perennials somewhere in their yard and an opinion to go with it. When choosing your perennials try to achieve a balance between tall and short, early bloomers and late, differing colours and textures.
When you go to the nursery to pick out plants, look for nice healthy colour and active growth. Tall spindly plants should be avoided as it is easier to get a plant to grow well from a small size than to try and correct it later.
When planting your perennials use good soil. Remove any weeds that may be in the garden bed. Also sprinkle fertilizer such as Perennial Food at its recommended rate. Incorporate this into the soil. Begin placing your perennials on top of the garden bed. Once all the plants are in place, step back and take a look. Are all the tall plants towards the rear of the garden? Do the plants have room to spread? When you are satisfied, remove the plants from their containers and place them in the soil. Make sure you water the plants every day for a period of two weeks. A fine gardener gave me this tip, he advised that new flowers of any type when first planted should be watered faithfully for the first two weeks. I have always adhered to his recommendation and have been extremely satisfied with the results.
The base of your perennial garden is now complete. The first year, plant annuals to add some colour and deter weeds from setting up shop until the perennials have filled in. I have comprised the following list to assist you in getting started. These plants are easy to grow, have been extremely successful in my gardens, and recommended them to family and friends and all have given rave reviews on their beauty and hardiness.
Ajuga 'Burgandy Glow': This plant has reddish-purple foliage and is variegated with white and pink. It grows to a height of approximately 6" and is one of the finest groundcovers. It produces stalks of flowers in early summer.