Perennials: A Picturesque Portrait

Breathes there anyone with a soul so dead,

Who would not admire a perennial bed?

Most of us start gardening too late in life. When we are young and sprightly, we have too many other interests. The middle years are taken up with furthering our careers and/or raising families, so that by the time we should be hitting our stride, our stride has turned into a totter; bones are creaking and backs are aching. The spirit might be willing, but the knees are weak. However, it’s never too late to start. Procrastinating about doing a project is like looking at a wheelbarrow; nothing will happen until we start pushing.

Planning a Large New Border:

Study the photos in gardening books then choose the layout and the plants you most admire within them. Like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, we must use the “little grey cells” in order to choose the best plants. Picture this large border as a stage and like Cecil B. de Mille you’ll soon be directing a cast of hundreds.

Digging:

Roses are reddish,

Violets are bluish,

But they won’t grow in soil that’s glueish!

Gardening is 10% preparation and 90% perspiration; most of the latter comes from digging.

  1. Make sure the soil is soaked but not soggy.
  2. The tines of the fork should go in the full length. Large clumps should be broken up with the back of the fork or spade.
  3. Spread large amounts of compost, peat, and manure then dig again. The soil will become friable. (For a vivid example of this, read page 39 of Too Late for Regrets.)

Planting:

Place the plants in the area where the holes are to be dug. Move them around until you’re happy with the result. Container plants bought from the nursery might have become rootbound; tease out some of the roots and spread them out before planting. Water thoroughly, and make sure that any weeds appearing are eradicated promptly.

Sun-Loving Perennials

  • Aurinia (Basket of Gold) – low growing, mid-spring
  • Rock Cress (Arabis) – showy racemes of pure white, late spring. Ideal for rock gardens.
  • Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter’s Beard) – has upright stems bearing fluffy clusters of pink flowers. 2 feet, needs staking.
  • Rudbeckia (Goldsturm) – Black-eyed Susan. Stunning orange flowers with a black center. Shasta daisy makes a spectacular splash of white, mid-summer.
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed) – “Early Sunrise,” “Sunray,” charming yellow flowers at the end of wiry stems, 1-2 feet
  • Heliopsis (Helianthus) – False sunflower, long blooming, 2-3 feet. Plant at rear.
  • Phlox Paniculata (Garden Phlox) – “Eva Cullum,” exquisite clusters of deep pink flowers on sturdy stems, stake. 2 feet, mid-late summer.
  • Aster Frikartii – lilac daisy-like flowers, late summer
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Achillea (Yarrow) "Paprika"

Achillea (Yarrow) “Paprika”

Aster Novae-Angliae

Aster Novae-Angliae

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Vegetable Garden by Joanne and Peter Durante

Blessed are they so humble and meek,

Who hoeth and planteth week after week.

They worketh, they toileth, they must not fail,

When all looketh perfect, uh-oh, here cometh hail.

-Old Testament, The Book of Planteth and Toileth

Joanne hails from a farming community in Kansas where tilling, planting, and harvesting were as natural as breathing. So it follows that she and her husband Peter have reserved a section of their property for a well-loved vegetable garden. With Joanne’s help, Peter designed and built the raised beds using railroad ties. Four-foot wide paths between all the beds enable easy access for planting and maintenance. A wealth of vegetables thrives in this garden: pumpkins, corn, squash, horseradish, kale, tomatoes, Swiss chard and zucchini.

Like all Americans of Italian heritage, Peter enjoys good food. And in Joanne he has found someone who not only grows the food, but cooks it to perfection. Her table groans under a Lucullan feast of freshly baked bread, soups, vegetable dishes, and salads.

This labor intensive garden keeps these two gifted gardeners busy all season–and the rewards are worth their efforts.

Here are some of Joanne’s tips for growing vegetables:

  • She makes the most of her compost and buys the rest from a brewery, which makes a special effective mix.
  • She grows most of her vegetables from seed. The exception is tomatoes because they ripen too late from seed.
  • Her garden is organic; no chemicals are used.
  • Mint repels cabbage worms, ants, and rats. But be careful: mint can be invasive.
    Horseradish, false sunflower against a background of corn

    Horseradish, false sunflower against a background of corn

    A beautiful array of mixed vegetables.

    A beautiful array of mixed vegetables.

    Kale, Swiss chard, and horseradish

    Kale, Swiss chard, and horseradish.

    The pond overlooks the vegetable beds.

    The pond overlooks the vegetable beds.

“Potager” or Vegetable Garden

I spy with my little eye,

A hungry rabbit two feet high.

He ate my carrots for his lunch, 

Not one or two, but the whole damn bunch.

The French word potager translates to “kitchen garden”–a combination of vegetables and flowers. In medieval times, crops were grown for the table and successful crops were a matter of survival for families.

It was in the great gardens of the aristocrats of continental Europe and England that the idea of a potager evolved. The vegetables were interspersed with perennials, while a separate herb garden was always included.

A combination of flowers and vegetables satisfies the soul as well as the appetite. With the renewed widespread enthusiasm about organic and homegrown food, you might be seeing more and more potagers springing up in your neighborhood.

If you could grow any fruit or vegetable in your backyard, which would it be? Comment below!

It's not a dog's life if you're surrounded by vegetables and flowers.

It’s not a dog’s life if you’re surrounded by vegetables and flowers.

Yellow squash and petunias.

Yellow squash and petunias.

Dahlias "H.G. Hemrick," larksour "Carmine," yellow squash, beans "Derby," and oriental cabbage "Joi Choi"

Dahlias “H.G. Hemrick,” larksour “Carmine,” yellow squash, beans “Derby,” and oriental cabbage “Joi Choi”

Vegetable Garden by Peter and Joanne Durante

Blessed are they so humble and meek,

Who hoeth and planteth week after week.

They worketh, they toileth, they must not fail,

When all looketh perfect, uh-oh, here cometh hail.

-Old Testament, The Book of Planteth and Toileth

Joanne hails from a farming community in Kansas where tilling, planting, and harvesting were as natural as breathing. So it follows that she and her husband Peter have reserved a section of their property for a well-loved vegetable garden. With Joanne’s help, Peter designed and built the raised beds using railroad ties. Four-foot wide paths between all the beds enable easy access for planting and maintenance. A wealth of vegetables thrives in this garden: pumpkins, corn, squash, horseradish, kale, tomatoes, Swiss chard and zucchini.

Like all Americans of Italian heritage, Peter enjoys good food. And in Joanne he has found someone who not only grows the food, but cooks it to perfection. Her table groans under a Lucullan feast of freshly baked bread, soups, vegetable dishes, and salads.

This labor intensive garden keeps these two gifted gardeners busy all season–and the rewards are worth their efforts.

Here are some of Joanne’s tips for growing vegetables:

  • She makes the most of her compost and buys the rest from a brewery, which makes a special effective mix.
  • She grows most of her vegetables from seed. The exception is tomatoes because they ripen too late from seed.
  • Her garden is organic; no chemicals are used.
  • Mint repels cabbage worms, ants, and rats. But be careful: mint can be invasive.
    Horseradish, false sunflower against a background of corn

    Horseradish, false sunflower against a background of corn

    A beautiful array of mixed vegetables.

    A beautiful array of mixed vegetables.

    Kale, Swiss chard, and horseradish

    Kale, Swiss chard, and horseradish.

    The pond overlooks the vegetable beds.

    The pond overlooks the vegetable beds.