Powerful Perennials

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Perennials may be the perfect plant for the lazy gardener since they bloom year after year. Perennial is Latin for perpetual which means that perennials disappear during the winter and return in the spring. The secret with perennials is patience. An old English poem describes it perfectly: "First year sleeps, second year creeps and third year leaps." In other words, if you can wait, you'll be guaranteed plenty of blooms with less maintenance, watering and fewer pest problems than annuals.

Just the spot

Since perennials last for years, you'll need to do some initial planning. Look at your garden. Is there an area where you would like to spend less time trimming or mowing such as along a fence or property line? Do you want to add to an existing flowerbed or create a new one?

Design considerations

Measure the proposed site and then sketch it onto graph paper. Take into consideration any other plants; you don't want your colourful perennials hidden by larger neighbours. Sometimes putting a garden hose around the area helps you visualize the shape. Once you have your chosen areas mapped, you'll need to pick perennials to match the sunny or shady areas in your garden.

Follow the basics of garden design:

  • do groups of three, five or seven to increase colour and texture -repeat the groups several times throughout the space to create harmony 
  • place tall plants at the back, or in the middle of an island and place small plants at the front or along the edge 
  • mix both colours and textures for variety -take into consideration blooming time so you can have flowers all season long 
  • add annuals to bring colour for the first year while perennials are getting established 
  • leave room for the plants to grow; tall plants need 46 to 91 cm (18 to 36 inches), medium plants need 30 to 46 cm (12 to 18 inches) and small plants 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) 
  • don't plant everything in a straight row

Popular perennials

Choose perennials suitable for your region. Popular perennials for most regions include aster, black-eyed Susan, daylily, bleeding heart, sweet william, Russian sage, sedum, verbena, yarrow, hollyhock, lavender, lupine, hosta, iris, peony and astilbe.

Planting perpetuals

When your plan is done you're ready to plant. Prepare the soil by removing turf and plant material. Work in some organic matter such as compost or an organic fertilizer balanced with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Make a hole roughly the same size as the perennial's container--avoid planting too deep. Place the perennial in the hole and make sure to cover the root ball well so there are no air pockets. Water and if you see any holes in the soil, add more soil. Plants in full sun will need water twice a day for the first few weeks but after that you can cut back to every four or five days.

Finally, sit back and wait for your beautiful garden to grow.