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In this article I will be discussing the question ‘What is a Perennial Plant’.
Basically a Perennial plant is any plant, be it a shrub, bulb, fiber rooted variety or your average garden flower, that live longer than two years. When I discuss perennials in this article I will be talking about those plants that combine the beauty of permanent shrubs, with the wonderment of the last vast amount of wild flowers that come from all over the planet.
Many of these wild flowers in particular, have been either hybridized or selectively breed to become those wonderful species of various plants that now adorn peoples gardens all over the world.
Some of my favorite species, from the thousands available to us, include plants such as salvias, phlox, delphiniums, lupins,petunias, through to alstroemerias, asters, dianthus, chrysanthemums, and other members of the daisy family.
There are so many species that the list is endless, and it would be far to difficult for me to mention them all here.
Every day you can see so many of these incredible varieties in our own gardens, in the gardens in magazine or those that are highlighted on television shows. In most cases they have become a common site in the borders of beautiful gardens everywhere.
Where Should we place these wonderful plants?
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Ideally we would place them in front of the smaller bushes and along the edges or borders of the garden beds.
But placement depends on several variables.
1). The size of the plant .
In most cases the smaller plants, as mentioned, would go in the front of taller varieties. However, Some more shrubby perennials, such as the larger flowering Salvias, are much better suited in the middle or back of the bed. Now, this isn’t always the case, sometimes in landscape design people like to Occasionally place plants randomly. Which can be very effective if done correctly.
However, it is a style of gardening that is better left to the experts. As I am directing my blogs towards beginner gardeners I prefer to keep design a bit simpler, but still magnificent.
Therefore as far as blog is concerned, I will keep it simple and stick with the most obvious garden designs where some sort of balance is desired.
Can you imagine planting some gorgeous modern double petunias, Daylilies and dianthus, in front of a group of perennial bushes such as salvias or Rhododendrons? The effect could be absolutely breathtaking.
2). Color of the flowers.
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There are several ways to approach color in the garden. You can go for a single color, Two or three color combinations, or a more random selection. I personally prefer the random style because I find it exciting each time a new plant begins to flower.
Other people may like to have a completely pink garden, or a pink and white one. These colors are often found in cottage gardens.
Some people prefer strong color tones, so they may go more for the oranges, reds, dark blue to black or even brown flowers.
What ever your preference is, keep it uniform in your garden. That is, if you go random than make sure your whole garden is random. If you like one or two color,s than try to find a balance with them. Pinks and whites for example look far better when mixed or layered in a garden than if you were to have one half of your area pink, and the other white.
Having said that, if you are more advanced and into creating rooms within your garden, than it’s fine to have one pink room and one white room or any other colors you prefer.
Once again, I have to say that I’m not going into depth with any particular garden design at this stage.
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Where will I get my Perennials?
As I suggest in all my blogs, if you are ready to fill your garden with some gorgeous plants, the best place to find these are in your local garden centers.
These people are experts in gardening and can suggest plants that would suit and thrive in your area.
You are ready to plant, . Now What?
At this stage you will need to prepare your soil, much the same way as I have discussed in other blogs.
The very first thing to do is to Add copious amounts of manure and / or compost to the soil. Doing this will give your plants the initial boast they need .
The key to growing healthy perennials in your garden is to make sure your soil is also healthy.
Once you have added the right amount of compost and manure you will need to complete a soil test to check the pH of the soil.
It will be worth your time to purchase a simple kit that can help you determine what pH your soil is.
Some plants like a high pH, or alkaline soil, while others thrive on a low-level or acidic type, and yet others prefer a medium level, or neutral level.
When you purchase your plants from your local garden Centre, the experts there will be able to advise you as to exactly what pH levels are required for each variety.
For example, a lavender plant would require fairly alkaline soil of around 7 to 8 pH. You can purchase either a lime product or Dolomite to adjust your soil levels higher if you have an acidic soil type.
Whereas members of the Rhododendron family prefer an acidic soil. If the soil is too Alkaline the plants will develop yellowish leaves and stunted growth.
Different Perennials have different Habits?
Some perennial plants die back every autumn and winter, their roots remain active underground and they will return during the spring. These types of plants are known as herbaceous perennials.
Examples of these herbaceous varieties include:
1). Some Daisies.
2). Some varieties of Salvia.
4). Some fern types
5). Some Hemerocallis, or Daylily, plants are dormant .
6). Bearded Iris.
8). Candytuft. Although it is a woody plant it can be treated as a herbaceous perrenial
And many more.
Those perennials that grow all year in warmer climatic zones are known as Evergreen plants.
Examples of evergreen types include:
4). Sweet Violets
5). Daylilies (hemerocallis).
And of course, lots more.
Some Plants can do both.
A good example of these would be Daylilies. As mentioned, they come in either Dormant, semi dormant or evergreen species.
Where the particular plant originates from has obviously got a lot to do with its characteristics.
When to Divide Plants?
Most herbaceous perennial plants can the divided once a year, normally during early autumn in colder climates. Completing the task at this time of the year gives the plant enough time for the roots to develop before the onset of colder weather.
For milder or warmer climates you can divide plants during late winter or early spring.
Many perennials need to be divided either once a year or up to every three years in order for them to maintain vigor and keep there flower production at a high level.
How you divide perennials depends on particular plant you’re working with. For example if we were to divide a clump of daylilies, which are classified as Hardy fiber rooted perennials, we can simply dig out the clump and cut it into smaller portions.
Some people like to cut the clump up into groups of two to three plants and than replant each smaller clump back into the garden or give some away to friends.
In my garden I simply put a sharp spade through the clump and cut it into quarters. I than cut off the ends of all the leaves, leaving about 3 to four inches of greenery. I also leave one quarter of the plant where it was situated and replant the others.
Each clump is than given a generous amount of manure and compost. I prefer sheep manure that comes from the shearing sheds. This sort is less likely to be affected by the weather, thereby retaining all the special NPK macro nutrients.
With plants that have a rhizome you need to the more careful where you cut the clump. Make sure each rhizome has at least two to three eyes, or shoots, from which to produce new growth. These plants are far better to be dug out as a complete clump and prise apart with the help of a sharp knife.
Each part can than have the Leaves cut off before replanting somewhere in your garden. Or you may want to give some away.
There are other perennials that should never be divided. Babies breath is an example of this.
Many of the shrub type perennials are also best left where they are in warmer climates, but can easily be moved in cooler ones. Simply undertake this job in autumn, when the heat of summer is gone, but the plants still have enough time to stabilize before winter.
In warmer areas replanting can be a bit more difficult. If you really believe you need to do this than dig out the plant in early spring. Leave as much of the root ball intact as you possibly can. Cut the foliage back by about half, so that the plant doesn’t lose too much water from transpiration through its leaves.
Make sure the hole you plant it in is deep enough for the root ball, the top of the root ball should be only just below the surface of the soil.
Going Back to the Divisions:
Now that you have divided your plants you can begin to replant them throughout the garden.
Dig holes big enough to accommodate all the root ball.
With plants search as daylilies you should wash off all the soil before planting out. In this case you need 2 create a mound in the hole and place your plant on the mound with the roots placed down the sides of the mound. You can than back fill the hole until the soil level is at the crown of the plant.
rhizomes should be placed in a hole with the eyes facing upwards. Different plants need to be buried at different depths. It’s far better to be sure than sorry so I would look up the requirements for each plant.
I will have an article coming out soon that describes different perennial plants and how you should plant them.
Once you have completed the task of planting your perennials you will need to water them in.
Soak the plants deeply with a solution of half strength seaweed fertilizer. This will help them to develop a strong root system.
Repeat the watering in about 2 to 4 days, depending on weather conditions, with just normal water. If you received heavy rainfall in the meantime than don’t continue watering them.
In hot and dry conditions you will need to continue water the plants for around 2 months.
It is now time to mulch around all your plants. Applying mulch to your garden, and in particular around your perennials, will help to conserve soil moisture and give your plants a better chance of surviving over the hotter summer months. It will also act as a weed suppressant.
Make sure you don’t place the mulch too close to the crown or stem of your plants. This could cause root rot or other fungal diseases.
Because I like to use plenty of organic matter such as compost, manures and mulches around my plants I prefer not to use any fertilizers until they are established and show signs of growth, usually a couple of months after planting. . I will than use one of the organic slow release fertilizers available. You can purchase these from any good garden center.
That’s about it:
Gardening can be a very pleasurable experience if you take a few precautions and learn to understand the needs of your plants. Perennials of all kinds can turn an ordinary garden into an oasis. There are so many species available for purchase today that the array of color, form and type is simply amazing.
I have only touched on a few examples here today but if you stick to the main principles you can’t really go wrong, and remember, if in doubt ask your local garden center.
Thank you for reading my blog.
Happy Gardening. Jim