Designing with Perennials

Everyone interested in saving time and money in the garden should know that perennials are one of the best deals you can find. Perennials are always a good value because they come back year after year and some varieties like hostas, daylilies and iris, even multiple over time!

Even without these time and money saving qualities, perennials play an important role in garden design. They serve as the “paints” that will help you can create a colorful display in your garden. And just as there are special techniques to applying paints to a canvas, over the years I have learned a few lessons about designing with perennials in the garden.

Yellow and Blue Perennial Border Against an Evergreen Hedge BackdropFirst, select a backdrop for your perennials. This can be a picket fence, evergreen hedge or colorful shrub. Next place your perennials in the border according to height. Plant tall, spiky forms such as foxglove closest to the backdrop, round and full elements in the middle and those that grow low to the ground toward the front.

Mexican Sage, Artemisia and Salvia Indigo Spires Make Up a Blue BorderWhen it comes to color, use shades that are all in the same color family to create a soothing composition. For instance, the palest pink ranging to the hottest magenta. For a more electric effect choose contrasting colors such as purple and orange or yellow and blue. Neutral tones like gray, white and green will help balance your palette and create a bridge between pockets of color.

Perennials bloom during specific times of the year so with a little orchestration it is easy to have continuous displays from spring through fall. Make selections according to the season in which they bloom so that when one grouping fades, another picks up.Gray Artemisia Is a Good Bridge Between Contrasting Colors Also, choose varieties of a single type of perennial that will flower early, mid and late season. For instance, daylilies bloom in summer, but you can purchase varieties that will flower during different times of the season. And remember a beautiful garden is about a lot more than just flowers. Consider the color and texture of foliage plants as well.

There a literally hundreds of perennials to choose from. But, the main thing to remember is to pick the ones you like, follow a few basic rules of design when you put them together and most of all, have fun.

Good to Know: Fall Planting

Most perennials can be planted in the fall, which gives you a head start next spring. Be sure to get them in the ground 6 weeks before the first hard freeze in your area.