The Possible Dream – How to plant a blooming perennial garden that will last

0016Most home gardeners have dreamt of a picture-perfect landscape with flowers bursting with color from spring until fall. This year, turn that dream into a reality by planning and planting perennial flowering plants.

    Perennials are those lovelies that bloom year after year and usually propagate themselves, allowing you to expand your garden at no extra cost. They are available in an incredible array of colors, textures and heights—not only flowers but foliage and bushes.

Assess your plot

“Properly assessing your sunlight and shade as well as soil is the first step in choosing perennials for your yard,” said Elizabeth Philbrick of Sargents Landscape Nursery. “You don’t have to be an expert gardener to have a successful and pleasing garden.”

    September and October are great times to plant, giving roots time to become established before winter. “Ground preparation is important and watering until it freezes will get things off to a good start,” Elizabeth said.

Drive and design

With so much to choose from, how do you know what to plant? Experts recommend driving around and taking notice of what plants you find attractive. Your tastes will move the design in ways unique to you.

    Ask questions: is it cold-hardy? Resistant to rabbits and deer? How much sunlight does it need? When does it bloom?

    Don’t be afraid to ask for help at the nurseries. “We are more than happy to help you design and plan, suggesting a good mix of choices that will work in your garden,” said Elizabeth.

Select for season

Spring bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, iris, peonies and crocus need to be planted in the fall and will give a
bright boost of early color when snow and frost are leaving the ground. They bloom once and then die back to allow for the next round of blooms.

    Top picks for summer, sun and shade, easy to grow, requiring a minimum of care are:
    • Cone flowers: Old-fashioned favorites grow two to three feet
        tall, blooming July and August.
    • Daylilies: From the humble orange ditch lily to fancy hybrids,
        these hardy flowers are easy to grow and bloom throughout the
        summer. From 10 inches to five feet, pick the color and look you
        want. (Cut dead stems off at base to encourage more flowers.)
    • Sedum: As close to a no-care plant as you can get. Blooms
        summer to fall, 12–30 inches tall. Dusty pink flowers attract
        butterflies and other beneficial insects.
    • Coral Bells: Propagates by seed, does well in shade or sun and
        gives beautiful ground cover from spring to fall.
    • Bee Balm: Fragrant and long lasting, it attracts hummingbirds
        and butterflies. Allow ample spacing when planting.

“Native grasses are very popular, come in a variety of colors and are an interesting backdrop for mid to low flowering plants,” said Elizabeth. “And who can forget hostas?”

    In addition, she said, “flowering bushes and trees are perfect to
offset the blooming flowers.”

    Elizabeth suggests filling in with annuals here and there until the beds are well established and fill in the garden plot.

    Developing a garden with perennial plantings takes time. It is quite an adventure to watch the panorama of growth as it fills in and unfolds. Have fun while you are getting to your destination and enjoy once you’re there.

Debi Neville is a freelance writer, living in Rochester with husband Pat. She is busy this fall adding color to her landscape.