5. HOW TO SELECT PERENNIALS FOR ALL-SEASON COLOR: Dry And Shade-Loving Perennials, Sun-Loving Annuals, Biennials, Climbers, Grasses For Dry Sunny Border, Roses And Moisture Loving Perennials
HOW TO SELECT PERENNIALS FOR ALL-SEASON COLOR
The best way to keep a flower garden colorful from spring through fall, is to include a combination of annuals, perennials and bulbs. That said, perennials are the backbone of most flower gardens, because they bloom year after year.
Each type of perennial has its own specific flowering period. Peonies and bearded iris, for example, flower for two to three weeks in early summer, then they don't bloom again until next year at the same time. Astilbes put on an amazing display of color in midsummer, but they don't flower during the first and last part of the growing season.
When gardening with perennials, the key is to make sure your flower garden includes plants that bloom during each of the different flowering periods, from late spring through early fall. Please use these lists as a general guide. Bloom times vary depending on where you live and the growing conditions in your garden.
PERENNIALS FOR EARLY TO SPRING
Heart-leaved bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia)
Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla)
Bleeding heart (Dicentra)
Dwarf bearded iris (Iris pumila)
Perennial geranium (Geranium)
Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)
PERENNIALS FOR EARLY SUMMER
Asiatic lilies (Lilium)
Bearded iris (Iris x germanica)
Coral bells (Heuchera)
Japanese Iris (Iris ensata)
Oriental Poppy (Papavaer orientale)
Poker primrose (Primula vialii)
Siberian iris (Iris sibirica)
PERENNIALS FOR MIDSUMMER
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
Goat's beard (Aruncus dioicus)
Globe thistle (Echinops)
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
Hybrid lilies (Lilium)
Louisiana Iris (Iris louisiana)
Meadow Rue (Thalictrum flavum)
PERENNIALS FOR LATE SUMMER AND EARLY FALL
Agastache (Anise hyssop)
Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)
Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Helen's flower (Helenium)
Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)
When dividing herbaceous perennials, prune the foliage back to about 4 to 5 inches from the crown of the plant (the part just above ground level). This will allow you to divide more easily and allow the plant to produce strong roots rather than support top foliage. After cutting back you should dig up the entire plant to begin division.
A woody plant is a perennial tree or shrub. The stem remains above ground during the winter. About 50 percent of plants in the world are woody plants.
DRY AND SHADE LOVING PERENNIALS
Dry Loving Perennials - Give your plants the best start by preparing the soil in sunny borders properly before planting. This means incorporating lots of organic matter – compost, well-rotted manure or recycled green waste for example. It will act as a sponge, helping your soil retain water, as well as providing essential nutrients. Plus, if you have clay soil the organic matter will aid drainage and prevent it from drying out and cracking on the surface.
Watering - Help your beds retain as much moisture as possible by adding a layer of decorative mulch such as bark, gravel, slate chips or pebbles. This stops precious water from evaporating and can help keep weeds down too! When it comes to watering, give the plants in hot, sunny borders a little more attention. Focus on young plants and newly planted borders first as they’re most vulnerable. It’s better to water them deeply every few days, rather than a light sprinkling of water on a daily basis. This will encourage deeper rooting, and once established, many ornamental plants will fend for themselves. Those dry, shaded spots in your yard don't have to be barren. Rely on easy-care perennials to add color and interest to shady areas.
Get your plants off to the best start possible by keeping them well-watered the first year or two. They will tolerate dry soil but do best in moist, well-drained soil.
Lavender - Lavender is popular with gardeners and bumble bees alike. This bumble-bee-attracting plant is a perennial doesn’t mind a lack of water while the sun shines. There’s a reason that it grows so well in the Mediterranean. If you want to keep yours neat and compact, just trim it back after it flowers.
Herbs like rosemary and sage, thyme and oregano grow well in full sun. Rosemary is a devoted sun-lover that will happily grow in containers as well as beds.
Dry Shade - Dry shade can make for a gardening challenge: no sun, no lawn. And because it's dry, most common shade plants (which are native to moist, woodland conditions) fail to thrive. Pick the right plants, however, and you can create a beautiful planting even in challenging conditions.
Start by amending the soil with organic matter, such as compost. Organic matter will help the ground hold moisture longer and provide a hospitable environment for plant roots. You'll also find that your dry shade plants will perform best if you continue to add organic matter every year.
Hostas – This is one of the most tried-and-true shade plants there are. Not only are they low-maintenance plants, but there are hundreds of varieties of hostas to choose from. Because hosta foliage is so diverse—in size, shape, and color—mixing and matching hostas in a shade garden is easy to do. Smaller varieties are gaining in popularity as they fit perfectly at the front of a garden border or around the base of a tree.
Another great detail about hostas is that they are easy to divide. When your plant gets too large, simply divide it using a shovel or your hands. Dividing can provide multiple new plants to fill in the rest of your shade garden or to share with friends and neighbors.
Lungwort – This shade-loving plant tolerates dry soil. The plant gets its name from its lung-shaped stature. Lungwort has tough-as-nails leaves, ranging from spotted to solid colors, and can grow different-textured leaves from one root! One great thing about lungwort is that it tolerates the cold. In the spring, lungwort will bloom bright blue, pink, white, and purple flowers, and will continue to stun into the winter. Not only that, but when used as groundcover, lungwort discourages weeds. There's a lot to love about this perennial.
Bleeding Heart - If you're aiming for a cottage garden vibe in the shade, start with bleeding heart. Bleeding heart gets its name from its long stems, which feature heart-shaped blooms that face downward. A trait that makes bleeding heart unique is that it is short-lived for a perennial. Bleeding heart will bloom beautifully in the spring and "play dead" once summer comes. No worries, though—the plant is just sleeping and will come back next year! But for this reason, plant bleeding heart with other colorful plants that can take the stage later in the year.
Coralbell - Coralbells grow flowers, but their foliage is what takes the show. Varieties such as 'Marvelous Marble' grow beautiful, multicolored leaves with a marble-looking surface. Other varieties have leaves that appear spray-painted while some have deep vein colors.
Coralbells are extremely easy to grow. They are native to rocky cliff settings where water drains easily, so they'll tolerate a dry shade well. Coralbells are also lovers of hummingbirds, so by growing them, your yard will be a beautiful foliage-filled sanctuary for hummingbirds to visit.
Ferns - There are plenty of varieties of native ferns, so finding one that thrives in your zone shouldn't be an issue. The Japanese painted fern has beautiful silver and burgundy leaves, while the autumn fern will have a beautiful fall display with golden red color. The varieties don't stop there!
Taking care of outdoor ferns is incredibly easy: Simply plant in well-drained soil and add organic matter such as compost. Ferns are virtually pest-free, so you don't have to worry about unwanted critters around this plant in your shade garden, except for the occasional slug.
Geraniums - One of the very best perennials for dry shade, this lovely plant offers deeply lobed leaves that look like snowflakes. The foliage is a bit fuzzy, making it somewhat deer and rabbit resistant, and in autumn, it turns beautiful shades of reddish-orange.
There are a handful of varieties available: 'Bevans' and 'Czakor' offer pretty pink flowers in late spring and early summer, 'Ingwersen's Variety' shows off pale pink blooms, and 'Variegatum' has magenta flowers over white-streaked leaves.
Bigroot geranium prefers moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter, but it holds up very well to dry conditions. It slowly spreads to form a dense carpet of foliage over the ground.
Cushion Spurge - Though cushion spurge is often grown in full sun, it does tolerate shade, especially in hot-summer areas. Like bigroot geranium, it's usually avoided by deer and rabbits.
In spring, cushion spurge bursts into bloom, producing tiny chartreuse flowers surrounded by showy bracts (much like its relative, the poinsettia, offers showy pink, red, or white bracts around the little flowers). Once it's finished blooming, count on the mound of gray-green foliage to stay attractive through autumn, when it often turns a reddish color.
Cushion spurge is an especially resilient plant. It tolerates poor soils with ease and may perform better in consistently dry soil than in average-moisture soil.
Hellebore - Hellebore, sometimes also called Christmas or Lenten rose because of its early bloom season, is one of the toughest shade-loving plants around. With thick, almost leathery leaves, it's easy to see why. Hellebores are evergreen perennials in mild-winter climates; in the coldest places they grow, the foliage usually dies back during the winter. Because all parts of this plant are highly poisonous, it's very resistant to deer and rabbits.
Hellebore flowers appear in shades of white, cream, yellow, green, red, and purple, and the blooms can be single or double. Hellebore is a fantastic companion for spring-blooming bulbs, such as daffodils. Dry soil is no problem for hellebores, but they'll grow faster and bloom better in moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter.
Foamflower – This delightful plant native to North America can spread quickly with runners to form a fairly dense mat of foliage. In spring, it produces little frothy wands of white or pink flowers that are a wonderful accent to spring-blooming bulbs, such as daffodils.
There are some fun varieties available, such as 'Running Tapestry', which features a purple blotch in the center of the leaves, and 'Susquehanna', which has lobed leaves heavily marked in dark purple.
While foamflowers will tolerate dry conditions, they'll spread more slowly than in moist conditions, and their leaves may develop brown, crispy edges. Keep them happy by incorporating an abundance of organic matter in the soil if you're planting them in dry shade.
Deadnettle – A top groundcover for dry shade, deadnettle (also called lamium) shows off attractive foliage that's often marked with silver. It blooms on and off throughout the summer, producing clusters of lavender, pink, or white flowers.
White Nancy' has mostly silver leaves edged in green and white flowers, 'Cosmopolitan' shows off silver leaves and pink flowers, and Golden Anniversary ('Dellam') bears green leaves streaked in silver and edged in gold. 'Purple Dragon' has similar colored leaves with bright, magenta purple flowers that really pop when blooming on and off from spring to fall. 'Orchid Frost' features pink colored blooms that are a little less showy than 'Purple Dragon'. 'Golden Anniversary' has unique tri-colored leaves (white, yellow, green) and green and pink blooms.
Deadnettle can spread quickly to form a dense groundcover. It thrives in moist, shaded spots but can handle dry soil. If the soil stays too dry for extended periods, leaves may develop brown edges. If this happens, you can cut the plant back and it will sprout fresh new foliage. Lamium runners can be removed with a short-tined rake; if you moisten the ground slightly, established plants can be easily pulled up by the roots.
Lamium is hardy to Zone 4. It creeps along the ground filling in spaces between plants, but doesn't get invasive. It grows particularly well in part shade areas and under shrubs trees and other all perennial flowers. Lamium can also grow well under limbed-up evergreen trees or even areas too dark for good lawn grass to thrive.
It will flower better if given some sun during the day. The flowering starts in late spring and continues, on and off, all summer. Lamium pairs well with other shade-loving perennial flowers such as hosta and astilbe. Because of its creeping nature, it grows best with tall perennials so it can fill in the gaps between plants but not disturb their growth. Lamium also is not a favorite plant of deer, so it usually doesn't get much damage.
Ajuga - This perennial groundcover with pretty flowers and fantastic foliage. We like it more for the foliage because you get to enjoy its effect all spring, summer, and fall instead of just in early spring, when the spikes of cobalt-blue flowers pop up like lighthouses over a sea of leaves.
You should be able to find many varieties of ajuga available at your local garden center. They offer a dense, almost weed-smothering mat of variegated foliage; you can't go wrong with 'Burgundy Glow', for example, with its silvery-green leaves marked with pink, burgundy, and white. 'Golden Glow' bears light green leaves edged in creamy gold, and 'Silver Beauty' offers white edges around the leaves.,
Ajuga tolerates dry shade but thrives in moist, well-drained soil. You typically see the richest foliage colors if the plant gets a couple hours of direct sunlight a day.
Other perennial groundcovers are a great way to protect your soil from erosion, keep a healthy ecosystem in the soil filled with beneficial microbes, reduce weeding and look great in your garden. There are many ground covers that gardeners are familiar with such as pachysandra, vinca and ivy. Vinca or periwinkle is one of my favorites.
SUN-LOVING ANNUALS & BIENNIALS - One of the big advantages of sun-loving annuals is that many of them can handle drought-like conditions. Poppies are an easy to grow hardy annual that love nothing better than a sunny spot.
If you want something with a heady scent, Sweet Peas are a wonderful choice. In fact, the scented mixes are particularly popular, thanks to its spicy clove-like fragrance and pretty pastel colors.
For simple full-sun splendor, annuals don’t come better than the azalea-shaped Snapdragon flowers even though snaps drop seeds like biennials. Other favorites include the reliable, creamy-colored flowers of Marigold ‘French Vanilla’ and easy to grow Petunias.
Best biennials for dry and sunny borders - The award-winning 'Night Sky' Petunia is a unique, easy-to-grow sun-lover.
For an early show of colour in your dry and sunny borders, plant wallflowers to bloom in spring and summer. These hardy plants are happy in full sun to semi-shade and can handle drought-like conditions. What’s more, they smell gorgeous too. An all-round winner. Other popular biennials include Arctic Poppy and Sweet William, both making wonderful sun-loving additions to scented, wildlife and cottage gardens.
CLIMBING PLANTS - Best climbing plants for dry and sunny borders. Honeysuckle is an enthusiastic climber that smells heavenly. Climbers can transform a garden. Wind them up trellises or fences, around tree trunks or shrubs, over pergolas and against walls. Wherever they go, they add colour, interest, and often sensational fragrance. The scented flowers are a delight to gardeners and wildlife alike. Try ‘Fragrant Cloud’ which produces spidery blooms from June to September that are replaced by shiny, plump red berries that birds love. It has clusters of white and magenta flowers that fills the air with sweet fragrance when it blooms from June through September. Plant near a trellis, arbor or fence and enjoy a beautiful vine that is covered top to bottom with blooms. Grows to 10 ft. tall. Full sun to partial shade. Zones 5-9.
Clematis is another popular, hardy choice. This plant can grow up to high and provide a stunning summer display. Other great climbers include wisteria, for their scent and striking floral display, climbing roses, and the distinctive, lightly scented purple blooms. They need to grow in the Hardiness Zone 5 and be protected from the wind.
GRASSES FOR DRY, SUNNY BORDER - Big bluestem, Switchgrass, Little and Big bluestem, Wild Rye and Prairie Grass. Many grasses demand full sun and well-draining soil, making them perfect for your garden. Ornamental grasses are easy to love because they are low maintenance, have a long season of interest, and easily add height with a small footprint.
Recent popularity with native perennials has reinvigorated breeding and interest in native grasses, with interesting and improved varieties more readily available on the market.
Grasses native to your area are generally less work to maintain as they are already acclimated to the local environment. Prairie grasses are the most popular example of this, as they are naturally more drought, heat, and wind tolerant.
ROSES - Basic Rose History, Breeding Roses, Varieties, and Requirements
Roses are shrubs with prickly stems, pinnate compound leaves, and ornamental flowers, usually fragrant. This definition conveys none of the charm that has inspired poets, painters, sculptors, architects, and designers for centuries. The rose may be the most prominent plant in the arts, decor, and symbolism.
Roses have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years and are native only to the northern hemisphere: Europe, North America, East Asia, and the Middle East. They were grown as ornamental plants as far back as the 6th century BC in China. In Europe they were first grown for use in perfume and other cosmetics and as health aids, but their ornamental value was soon recognized and appreciated.
Rose breeding began in Europe in the 17th century. Most of the Old Garden Roses of that time were once-blooming shrubs in shades of white, pink, or red. The introduction of more and more species roses and the China and Tea groups into breeding practices produced reblooming roses in every color but true blue, with blooms of various shapes and sizes. This ultimately resulting in thousands of cultivars meeting every conceivable aesthetic preference.
There is a rose for every garden situation and need, from climbers to adorn a trellis, to miniatures for containers, to long-stemmed types for bouquets. Because of this variety, it's important to choose carefully. If you are looking for the familiar rose bush, consider hybrid teas, floribundas, or shrub roses. Hybrid teas are tall, long-stemmed roses ideal for cutting. Floribundas are shorter and bloom more freely, setting clusters of blossoms rather than a single bloom on a stem. Both these require regular maintenance for optimum performance. Shrub roses (sometimes called landscape roses), on the other hand, require somewhat less attention, adapt more readily to a wider range of conditions, and offer more disease resistance.
Ideally, roses should be grown in part-sun and open locations, with good air circulation at the base of the plant, in rich and well-draining soil. Some roses, notably the old ramblers and the modern hybrid musks, can tolerate some shade in any zone and may even prefer shade in the hottest zones.
Roses require 1-2 inches of water a week to thrive. Apply a layer of compost under the shrub each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds, keeping mulch a few inches away from the stems. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Pruning techniques vary with the type of rose.
Plant in early spring or fall, depending on your location. Space plants 2 to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. In regions with cold (below 0F) winters, plant grafted roses so the graft union (which appears as a bulge near the base of the stem) is 1 to 2 inches below the soil line. In warm regions, the graft should be a few inches above the soil line.
For container-grown plants, dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. For bare-root roses, dig a hole 12 to 18 inches deep and wide. The hole should be large enough that all the roots can be spread out without touching the sides of the hole. Mound a cone of soil in the center of the hole. Trim off any broken roots, then place the rose in the hole, spreading the roots around the soil mound. Fill the hole half full of soil and water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain, then fill the remainder of hole with soil and water thoroughly.
MOISTURE LOVING PERENNIALS - One of favorite perennials that grows well along the bank of a stream or pond are turtle heads (Chelone). These plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and ‘Rosea’ is an attractive red flowering type. They are hardy and easy to go, as long as they get moisture. Another stream or pond side perennial is irises. The Japanese iris, Louisiana iris and Siberian iris all thrive in a low spot in the yard that collects water.
In a wet garden setting that may flood seasonally, try bee balm, yellow rocket, Joe Pye weed and swamp milkweed. These plants are not only attractive, but I also love how they attract beneficial insects, pollinators, hummingbirds and butterflies. And they are all tough as nails in the garden. Look for disease resistant varieties if powdery mildew is an issue in your garden.
For lower growing, moisture, loving perennials look for geraniums, lamium, monkey grass and, of course, hosta. These low growers will often spread, so it’s important to plant them where they get consistent moisture and where you can control their growth. Grow them near other aggressive perennials, such as rudbeckia and phlox, or near a walkways or physical barrier. I’ve had good success growing these along a lawn area where the mowing and edging keeps them tamed.
When selecting perennials for wet spots, start checking now how long that area is flooded in winter and spring. Some perennials grow better submerged in water than others. Also, look for native plants growing well in the area. They often will give you a tip on what to grow. For example, wild asters grow well in wet spots, so you can select an attractive cultivar of these native plants. Also, if the area dries out in summer, you’ll need to keep it well-watered so the plants will flower well and thrive.
FYI - INaturalist Rare Plants
On July 27, 2018, photo, Susan Hewitt photographed a daisy-like weed known as 'shaggy soldier' and added it to iNaturalist, the app she uses to participate in the New York City EcoFlora project sponsored by the New York Botanical Garden.
The 70-year-old spotted a mysterious patch of bright green leaves with tiny white flowers in a raised flower bed. It turned out to be tropical Mexican clover, a weed common in South America and Florida's orange groves, but never recorded before in New York state.
Hewitt volunteers for an ambitious project to photograph all the wild plants that dwell in New York City. On Friday, the organizers announced that citizen scientists had catalogued more than 26,000 sightings, and documented new populations of invasive species and native weeds that seem to be disappearing, like the green comet milkweed.