The traditional view of perennial plants is of a large Victorian herbaceous border, however, these days people are finding ever more creative ways to use them. Perennial plants are wonderfully versatile either in a traditional bed, or mixed with a selection of shrubs and other plants such as grasses. They make wonderful border plants around lawned areas, and can be planted in raised beds or containers for a more modern aesthetic. By selecting suitable plants it is possible to have a perennial of one type or another in flower from February through to late October and even November in a mild year. Additionally, many are grown for their ornamental foliage which provides colour and texture outside of the flowering season.
As well as this long period of interest they are also regarded as being low maintenance; a tidy up after the winter to remove last years’ dead foliage is recommended, some form of staking or support for the flower heads of plants such as Peonies and Delphiniums, and possibly a cut back after flowering to encourage some new fresh growth and the possibility of a second set of flowers in some cases. A well-stocked bed has the benefit that the perennials will compete with weed growth, reducing the need for this chore. For the first summer after planting it is worth making sure they are well watered to enable them to establish healthy root systems – in subsequent years many of these plants will be able to tolerate fairly dry conditions, as their roots can tap into water lower in the soil.
Perennials have another advantage in that many of them are highly attractive to bees and other pollinating insects. Pulmonaria and the hardy Geraniums produce early nectar in spring, through to the Sedums and Helianthemums in the autumn, a garden packed with these plants will provide nourishment for many months of the year. As well as this, the seed heads often have their own form of interest in the autumn. Peony seeds can look spectacular and Sedum seed heads covered in a hard frost can sparkle in the sun.
Our GardeningBox subscriptions are designed to provide an attractive mixture of perennial plants suited to your outdoor space.