With so many varieties of perennials to choose from, gardeners have almost limitless options for displaying these lovely plants. The following creative gardening ideas will help you get started.
- Arrange the perennial garden so that you can see and enjoy every plant -- regardless of how small it is. Place the tallest plants in the rear of a border that is viewed exclusively from the front. In an island bed viewed from all sides, place tall plants in the middle.
- Work medium-height plants into the middle of a border or island bed, filling out the garden in front of the taller plants. Set small plants up front, where they won't be hidden by taller leaves or flowers. The neat progression of short to tall gives a garden a sense of order and tidiness many people appreciate. Don't be too rigid, however. You can work some medium-size varieties into the plants up front to add interest. Bring a few tall plants forward to break up any tendency to make height organization rigid.
- Combine several different perennial forms to keep the garden from being monotonous. Diversity provides spice to perennial gardening.
- Convert your front yard to a cottage garden. Tending flowers is much more fun than mowing grass!
- Plant shade-loving perennials on the shady north side of shrubs if you don't have trees. Perennials such as anemones, astilbes, hostas, Lenten roses, and violets can look lovely against a backdrop of evergreen shrubs. Flowering deciduous shrubs such as viburnums or hydrangeas can be even more beautiful.
- Interplant perennials with reseeding annuals for a lush look that changes every year.
- Plant perennials instead of grass in the boulevard strip. The boulevard strip is the very public space located between the sidewalk and the road. It can be hot, dry, and heavily trod upon, which makes it difficult to keep grass looking healthy and nice. Instead of fighting a constant battle with turf, use a different tactic. Plant the boulevard strip with low but bushy perennials that people won't walk on. Choose heat- and drought-tolerant perennials such as coreopsis, Silver Mound artemisia, and sea thrift. Now the problem area can become a pretty garden.
- Start a shade garden under trees by adding 4 inches of compost over the tree roots before planting. Rich, moist compost provides a fast start for newly planted perennials. This is important -- the flowers need to be growing strongly before tree roots move in and capitalize on their growing space. Compost also helps keep the garden moist in summer, when the trees and perennials may compete for water. Just be careful when planting not to damage the tree roots.
In our next section, we'll talk about the process of planting perennials.