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.


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.)


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)

Why Latin is Important

Latin is a dead language,

As dead as dead can be;

It killed the Ancient Romans,

And now it’s killing me! 

Using botanical names is important. Without them, the gardening world would become like the Tower of Babel. Common names can vary from region to region, but Latin is the unifying language. Making the effort to study botanical names has its benefits. For example, when you’re in a group of frighteningly erudite and knowledgeable gardeners and “Helenium autumnale” lightly trips off your tongue. It beats “sneezeweed” hands down.

There was a French gardener, Monique,

Whose English and Latin was weak,

She bought plants quite wrong, they didn’t last long,

Mon Dieu, were those tags all in Greek?

Pictured below are lovely photos of perennials. Their botanical names are quite a mouthful, but take the weekend to learn them! Otherwise, you’ll end up like poor Monique!

What are some of your favorite Latin phrases that can be thrown into casual conversation?

"Helenium autumnale, heliopsis helianthoides"

“Helenium autumnale, heliopsis helianthoides”

"Sedum spectabile, rudbeckia fulgida"

“Sedum spectabile, rudbeckia fulgida”

"Heliopsis helianthoides"

“Heliopsis helianthoides”

Gardening Post of the Week

Gardening is a fascinating and extremely rewarding hobby. People often complain that they don’t have enough space or means to grow a garden, but the truth is that anyone can grow a garden with patience, perseverance, and an eye for beauty.

There was a rich gardener called Rhonda,

She spent lots, made her garden a wonder,

She spent too much more, she soon became poor,

Now she drives not a Jag but a Honda.

Baronial acres or ducal estates are not necessary in order to create a successful garden. If you hanker after a palatial spread, you would have to marry extremely well. If you haven’t yet met a duke or a baron at the local bar, don’t despair. Try writing to:

Queen Elizabeth

c/o Buckingham Palace

London, England.

Ask her whether she knows any duke or baron among her many relatives who is looking for a wife. No reply? Stony silence? Well, what the hell, it was worth a shot. So be content with what you’ve got, whether it’s a suburban lot, a townhouse garden, or a patio container garden. Any of these can become the canvas on which to paint your artistic dreams.

Remember: It’s better to have planted and lost than never to have planted at all.

Two Hunks of Canine Muscle Guard the Border

Two Hunks of Canine Muscle Guard the Border

Townhouse Garden

Townhouse Garden

A Container Garden

A Container Garden

Today’s Gardening Topic: Outdoor Ornaments

If you give good advice, it will never be remembered.

If you give bad advice, it will never be forgotten.

A small fountain among the flowers.

The ornaments in the garden should be a reflection of your own unique taste. The correct placement of urns, fountains, or statues can transform an ordinary area into a conversation piece. Unsuitable, pretentious objects look out of place in a small suburban garden; unwise and expensive mistakes might haunt you for years. Only death will relieve you of the obligation of having to view these regrettable choices every time you venture into the garden.

Stone Bench

Which is the garden ornament–the stone bench or its adorable canine companion?

If possible, small children should not accompany you on these buying trips. Children have notoriously bad taste. Instead of the divine container you originally set out to buy, you might be inveigled into purchasing a carload of grotesque gnomes, pink flamingos, or other kitschy knick-knacks.

Friends can also give wrong advice. You might find yourself gazing onto your small garden at a massive stone lion’s head, or a fountain more suitable for the Palace of Versailles. On that note, avoid friends who use the word “cute” to describe hideous objects. This is a word appropriate only for babies, puppies, or newly hatched chicks.

Garden Ornaments Trough

A stone trough with intricate designs is the perfect home to display your favorite flowers.

Do you have any neighbors, friends, or family who refuse to take down hideous garden ornaments? Or have you ever made an impulsive purchase of a less-than-ideal garden arrangement? What is the worse ornament you’ve ever seen? I want to hear your garden horror stories in the comments below!