A beautiful perennial garden adds color, fragrance, and texture to the landscape and can transform a dull yard into an interesting place that you’ll want to spend time in. A good design can seem complicated and intimidating but a few key principles to keep in mind will simplify things. First, decide what you want your garden to do. For example, if you like to cut flowers to enjoy in a vase in the house, then you’ll want to plant perennials with different heights, shapes, and colors with lots of fragrance and different bloom times. On the other hand, if you want to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your yard, plant nectar-rich tubular flowers.
Another key principle is to write a checklist. Is the area in full sun or shade? What are the dimensions? Do you want to surround a patio with lots of color or soften the edges of a swimming pool? First decide what the function of the garden is before you buy any plants.
When you do start planting a perennial bed, the most important element is the soil. Because perennials live for years, they need rich, organic soil that drains well in order to perform at their best. Many perennials will tolerate poor soil but this doesn’t mean they prefer it.
A good design incorporates annuals, perennials, shrubs, bulbs, and ornamental grasses together to provide year-round interest and structure. Experiment with different plants and remember a plant can be moved if it doesn’t look right in a perennial bed.
Remember the Rule of Planting
The #1 rule of gardening is to put the right plant in the right place with the right soil. This simply means that you will get the best results and have the healthiest plants when you choose plants that are best suited for the spot you’re working with. For example, if you have a hot, dry slope that gets full sun with no shade whatsoever, plant perennials like lantana, verbena, dianthus, or sedum. This is not the spot where plants like canna lilies, hardy hibiscus, or hostas would be happy. Putting the right plant in the right spot with good soil will produce a happy plant that needs much less attention and pampering from you.
Fertilizing Perennial Plants
The two primary reasons for fertilizing perennials are to encourage growth, and create a healthy, vigorous, attractive plant that will produce an abundance of flowers. But be careful! There is often a temptation to over-fertilize in the hopes of producing more blooms, faster. If you force a perennial plant beyond its natural growth rate by over-fertilizing, you might end up with mostly foliage and no blooms. Too, over-fertilization can predispose the plant to insect or disease infestation, and reduce tolerance to drought or temperature extremes.
What Fertilizer Is Best For Perennials?
Most perennials would be happy with a good, all-purpose flower food or organic fertilizer; however, others may have specific preferences or needs. In general, using a natural, organic fertilizer is the preferred method because there is very little chance for burning your perennial plants. Other flower foods, such as the "Bloom Boosters" can be useful for development of stronger root systems and enhanced bloom production. Slow-release, capsule-type fertilizers can be applied a few times a year for season-long feeding.
We grow our own perennials here at the nursery and we use the absolute best slow release fertilizers money can buy. It DOES make a difference. With fertilizer, you get what you pay for.
A few helpful links:
Below are some of the perennials we grow and sell. As always, selection changes with the season.
Gerber Daisy 'Garvenia series'
Hens & Chicks
Lantana, Miss Huff & Mozelle
Sedum, creeping & tall