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)

A Stunning Garden Featured in My Book, “Magical Gardens”

Rich and Carol Lillard manage their 0.75 acre property in the suburb of Lakewood without any help. Rich mows the lawn; Carol takes care of the design, digging, planting, weeding, and pruning. Carol’s knowledge of gardening, her artistic eye, and–above all–her devotion to the garden are what make it so special. Her restrained good taste in her selection of ornaments–birdbaths, benches, containers, plaques, window boxes, statues, and fountains–all contribute to the peaceful atmosphere.

Carol relies on groundcovers to keep the weeds at bay: purple creeping veronica, blue-hued thyme, sedum, phlox subulata, white snow-in-summer and basket-of-gold. In spring, splashes of color appear; tulips, daffodils, white candytuft, and purple grape hyacinth. These are followed by waves of irises, peonies, yarrow, larkspur, garden phlox, and asters.

Trained against the pale-hued wall, a spectacular combination of glorious red climbing roses and purple clematis form a pattern around a wall fountain. Two equally stunning clematis “Jackmanii” planted against the wall of the house clamber to a height of 15 feet!

Window boxes ablaze with impatiens, petunias, and lobelia are positioned in between these purple beauties.

Carol’s sensibilities are evident in her design, color combinations, and flair in choosing just the right weathered ornaments to stage her tableaux.

If you had unlimited funds (and time) to spend on your garden, what would it look like? Daydream away in the comments below!

Candytuft blossoming in spring.

Snow in summer blossoming in spring.

How would you like to look out your window and see this sight?

How would you like to look out your window and see this sight?

A traditional stone statue provides a classical touch.

A traditional stone statue provides a classical touch.

A landscape shot of the same statue surrounded by lovely flowers.

A landscape shot of the same statue surrounded by lovely flowers.

The pale-hued wall fountain that provides the perfect canvas for colorful flowers.

The pale-hued wall fountain that provides the perfect canvas for colorful flowers.

Bright purple colombine.

Bright purple colombine.

Orange tulips.

Orange tulips.

A rustic gate.

A rustic gate.

Purple iris.

Purple iris.

Window Box

What would you plant in your window box?