Perennial Perfection

Perennial Perfection

This week we’re expecting the first shipment of perennial plants to land at 380 West Main Street. Spring has arrived! This is just the beginning of the flood of plants that will be arriving throughout the spring and summer, but it reminds us that this is the time when people want to plan for their flower gardens. Here are a few tips for maintaining and improving your perennial beds.

  1. This spring, look at the plants that are emerging from the ground. If there are some perennials that have spread really rapidly, and are taking over the garden, edit some of those plants now. Some perennials are a bit too enthusiastic in the garden, and some are outright thugs! Don’t let a few plants take over.

2. If you see your early emerging daylilies or other perennials being eaten by rabbits, spray them now with Plantskydd. This will tell Thumper that these plants are not on the bunny buffet.

It’s a happy time when the racks of perennials arrive in March and April! New plants come in frequently at this time of year, so come in and check for your favorites.

3. Did you take photos of your perennial gardens in the past? Look back to see if there are times when you have fewer flowers in the garden, and plan to add plants that bloom at that time of year. A perennial garden is like a kaleidoscope – it changes from March through November. With a variety of plants you can have color in your flowerbed (foliage as well as blooms) through all of these months.

Your perennial garden can have color from spring to fall. The bright yellow flowers of the perennial basket-of-gold plants (Aurinia saxitilis) are especially welcome when they bloom in April and May.

4. Be realistic about how much sun your perennial beds get over the day, and then choose plants accordingly. We have plants that tolerate shade grouped under the pergola in the perennial shade section of the garden center. Many of these plants do well in part-sun as well.

Fern leaf bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) flowers from spring into the summer in part-shade or part-sun locations. This is also a great plant for attracting hummingbirds to your yard and gardens.

5. Before purchasing more plants, ask yourself what you want out of your perennial garden. Is it flowers for cutting? Plants to support pollinators? Low-maintenance? If it’s less work, be sure to choose the right plants because some perennials require a lot more care than others. (To learn about which perennials are low-maintenance on Cape Cod, attend C.L. Fornari’s Sunday Seminar on March 20th. Register here.)

This beautiful perennial garden is actually one of the most high-maintenance styles you can grow. The purple Salvia in the front needs to be cut down at the end of June, the lady’s mantle will need to be deadheaded, and the bread poppies, which are annuals, will need to be pulled up in mid-July when they stop flowering. Other plants in this garden need editing, deadheading and more so that the garden will look as good in August as is does here, in June.

6. If your perennial garden has moss growing on the soil right now, that’s a sign that you need to amend the ground with a layer of compost! Moss loves compact soils, and will thrive in such areas even in sunny gardens. If you cover the soil in your perennial gardens with an inch of mulch every spring, moss is less likely to grow. Both compost and mulch amend the soil from the top down with organic matter.

7. Most perennials do well with low to average levels of fertility, but daylilies, Russian sage and roses can use a bit more fertilizer. Have a complete soil test done by the University of Massachusetts Soil Lab if you are wondering if your garden needs to be fertilized.

Daylilies provide about a month of flowers. Taller varieties, such as the ones pictured here, bloom in July. A few shorter types flower in June. All daylilies need to be deadheaded after flowering by removing the old flower stalks.

8. Perennials usually look best planted in groups of three, five or seven. A larger group creates more of a visual impact, and makes your garden maintenance easier since all the plants that require the same care are clustered together.

With the right combination of plants, and ongoing involvement from the gardener, a perennial garden is an ever-changing display of flowers and foliage.

Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ is a perennial that flowers in August and September. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies as well as people.
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