Perennials – The Backbone of Your Garden

Perennials - The Backbone of Your Garden
Black Samson or Echinacea angustifolia - One of the many perennial wildflowers available

Black Samson or Echinacea angustifolia - One of the many perennial wildflowers available

Many gardeners cherish perennials because they flower, spread and multiply year after year and as such they can form the backbone of your flower garden. This in itself sets them aside from annuals as it eliminates the need to buy and plant new flowers every spring. Perennials are simple to grow, require little maintenance, and as a group are adapted to a wide variety of conditions, including a tolerance for sun and shade and moist or dry locations. In fact, many shade tolerant perennials are planted more for their eye-catching foliage than their flowers. Perennials have a life cycle of 3 plus years, whereas annuals have a 1-year lifecycle, and biennials a 2-year life cycle.  In many respects perennials are probably the most versatile of all plants. They are also resilient, usually free from pests and disease and will survive up to 10-12 years with the proper love and attention. The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a low-maintenance, eye-catching garden, perennials are unquestionably the way to go. Because perennials provide a charming way to maintain a green, flowering garden throughout the year they are popular for many different landscape purposes including; borders, boundaries, ground cover, as well as in containers, on trellises, arbors, or pergolas.  They will also thrive in raised flowerbeds. Perennials can be propagated by seed, division, and various cuttings, and while they can stand on their own in a landscape they may be complimented by a few well placed annuals.  Perennials can even make an excellent addition to a vegetable garden by providing a colorful border. Planting perennials from seed is an inexpensive and easy way to start your garden. As a rule late-summer or fall-flowering perennials are planted in the spring, whereas spring-flowering perennials are planted in the late summer or early fall.  Just make sure that if you plant in the spring you hold off until after the heavy frost season. Regardless of when you plant, perennials require adequate time to establish themselves prior to flowering and before the arrival of either cold or hot, dry weather. While most perennials are not regarded as heavy feeders, it’s essential they be provided with an adequate supply of nutrients. Using a general slow release garden fertilizer and adding lime to the garden early in the season will help give your plants a healthy start and feed them through the whole season. Likewise, each spring you should spread compost throughout your perennial garden to improve soil consistency. If you do apply fertilizer throughout the growing season ensure that you stop after mid-July. This allows the plants to slow down their growth and concentrate on building up much needed reserves for winter. Perennials that bloom in the spring and early summer should be divided in mid-late September to ensure that the following seasons blooms won’t be interrupted. Perennials are available in an almost endless number of colors, sizes, shapes and textures. In fact, there are perennials available to please just about any gardener.  They are also a great choice if you don’t have a passion for digging in the dirt. In addition, perennials are an excellent choice for the shade garden and when they're not in flower, perennials they can be enjoyed simply for their foliage, and isn’t this equally as important as their blooms? So, why not start a love affair by planting perennials? Remember, just like an old friend they’ll love you by flowering again at the same time year after year.

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