Flowers add a delightful splash of color in our yards, and if you enjoy color, I’ve got great news: you can have color from the time the snow melts in early spring until the first hard freeze of autumn with as few as 10 familiar perennials.
Perennials are so named simply because they grow year after year, as opposed to annuals which die at season’s end and must be re-planted each year. Perennials are not work-free, however, so don’t expect to plant them and be done with them.
I want to share with you 10 select groups of plants that offer a variety of color choices as well as staggered blooming periods to ensure bloom virtually every week from March through October. Hundreds of perennials will bloom during and in between the ones I have listed. However, the following categories will get you through the growing season with “flying colors.”
The first family of the 10 groups of plants is actually a category with many other families – bulbs. Starting in early spring, crocus, daffodils, tulips and other bulbs will start peeking through the snow. Depending on the spring, blooms will last as long as late May.
One early perennial with a delightful little blossom is called candytuft (Iberis.) It’s an evergreen that you can enjoy all winter long in foliage, and then in the spring welcome beautiful white flowers that virtually cover the entire plant. They grow from 8 to 12 inches tall, and will spread out to 18 to 24 inches.
Around the middle of May and throughout June, look for iris to give you unique blooms in a variety of heights ranging form a little dwarf to a type that reaches 28 inches. There are a wide variety of colors from which to choose. Some newer varieties will also bloom again in the fall.
Around Memorial Day, peonies produce a spectacular flower on little bushes that you may remember form your childhood that lined the side yards and sidewalks. The predominately pink, white or red blooms work beautifully as a part of a flower garden and needn’t be relegated to a row position. There are three basic kinds, each with a different “look” and they last well as foliage background through the entire summer.
The standard peony you remember from your childhood should be cut back each fall and the debris carried away so they stay healthy. The tree peony is a taller variety that keeps its stems though winter like a typical shrub. A unique peony is the “fern leaf” type with different foliage than either of the other two varieties. The fern leaf also features a blooming period almost a month earlier than the other two. Its typically red flowers can be found either single or double petaled.
In early June, look in the meadows for wild daisies and use that as a key to look in your garden for the many types of plants available in a daisy-like flower. I’d like to mention the Shasta daisy, the painted daisy and the coreopsis as three of my favorite types.
Another late spring bloomer is the rose. With the fragrant buds and lovely petals, there are too many varieties and colors to even begin to suggest a type that might be best. Get advice from your local garden center for hardy strains and preferred colors. There is an organization – American Rose Society – that rates new varieties of roses. Roses selected by this organization have met specified standards that include disease resistance and tolerance to a variety of weather conditions. Once again, check with your local garden center.
Early-summer blooming flowers include creeping phlox – perfect for a rock garden – and other varieties of phlox that can grow to knee-to-shoulder high. These lovely taller flowers bloom from late June into August.
Day lilies are another group of plants with literally hundreds of varieties and colors. They are especially delightful because there are enough varieties that you can select for bloom up to 10 weeks or more. Several day lilies are repeat bloomers, especially if you keep the fruit heads clipped back. Some experts who really know day lilies can literally arrange varieties in such a way that blooming will take place daily for weeks on end.
Autumn bloomers include the aster, with varieties in pink, white and lavender, and chrysanthemums, which are available in just about every color. Asters are especially hardy in dry weather. Mums, however, need a well drained, but moist soil.
Virtually all the perennials need a well-drained bed in which to thrive. Except for the aster, most need constant moisture. Remember, when planning a perennial bed, proper spacing is important because these plants get bigger each year and could eventually crush each other. Also bear in mind the ultimate heights and color combinations.
Although perennials will grow from year to year without much attention, the beds must be cared for, including fertilization, mulching and weed control. Perennials also tend to spread out and die off in the center, so most should be dug and divided every three to five years.
There are many more perennials available, but I hope these suggestions will start to bring color to your life – all summer long.
Article by Fred Hower, “The Ohio Nurseryman.”
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