Thursday, May 30, 2013

Perennials for Dum Dums

It's early June, and I'm a little late getting this out. I was going through my blog archives, and noticed this piece got a staggering amount of hits, so I thought I'd rerun it with some additional perennials I've come to enjoy. 

I live in central Nebraska, infamous for its challenging weather: heat, humidity, wind, hail, and extreme temperature fluctuations (one day 50, the next 101). The soil in central Nebraska is heavy and clay-based, not ideal for gardens. Despite this, I've managed to cultivate a gorgeous perennial garden that I've enjoyed for many years. The following are suggestions for a no-fail perennial garden. If you are fortunate enough to live in a temperate climate with good, earthy soil, you'll have more options than me. What I’m describing will fit the worst garden conditions, save perhaps desert-- sorry Arizona.

Important: If you live in an area with bad soil (like me), amend it! It’s a pain, but worth it.  Just dig a bigger hole than you need for your plant, add some compost and some good garden soil, then plant. You can cover it up with your terrible soil, then layer mulch over that. The earthworms will come and all will be well!

Start with these time-proven perennials. They are truly minimum maintenance and have a high success rate for gardeners of any skill level. You'll want your garden to have season-long color, so here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Color for Early Spring
*Tulips and Daffodils: Buy the biggest bulbs you can. The bigger ones are much showier in the spring! Plant the bulbs in the fall. Both are great for vases. Middle of the garden.

Color for Mid Spring/Late Spring/Early Summer

*Daisies: These guys spread quickly. Don’t hesistate to pull them out where you don’t want them. Mid to back of the garden, depending on the variety. Great for vases.
*Bugleweed: Gorgeous blue flowers, low ground cover. Spreads quickly.  Again, don’t hesitate to pull them out where you don’t want them. They can be a little pushy. Front of the garden.
*Irises: Elegant and showy. Great for vases.  Back of the garden.
*Clematis: These babies are carefree climbers: fence, trellis, I even have one growing up my drain pipe! Stunning!
*Peonies: Smell great, looks good in vases. If you bring them indoors, be careful of the ants! The little critters help the blooms open. Back of the garden.
*Speedwell. There’s lots of varieties of these. Middle of the garden. Not my favorite. Short bloom time, then they turn rather weedy looking.
*Thrift. Compact, slow spreading. Front of the garden.
*Asiatic Lilies. Elegant. Spreads slowly. Middle of the garden. Great for vases. 
*Hen and chicks. Spreads. Front of the garden.
*Bachelor Buttons: Kind of a cool, spidery looking flower. Middle of the garden.
*Catmint: Easy, but watch out. This dude spreads fast!!! Middle of the garden.
*Columbine: Gorgeous in vases. Middle of the garden.
*Sweet William: Takes a while to get established, but worth the wait! Sweet smelling and great in vases. 

Sweet William

Color for Summer
*Knock-out roses: Ask for by name. These are not the same as regular roses, which can be persnickety in bad soil and difficult climates. Knock-outs are my absolute favorite perennial! They give awesome color all summer long and well into fall. They’re carefree, disease-free…Heaven! They size according to the amount of sunlight they get. My shade area knockout, which only gets about four hours of sunlight a day, stays compact at about two feet. My sun knock-outs have grown to almost 5 feet! Mid to back of the garden depending on sunlight.
*Yarrow: Neat color variations. Super easy. Middle of the garden.
*Veronica: Beautiful purple flowers all summer. Doesn’t like a lot of water and will tell you so! Back of the garden. 
*Salvia: Super easy. Very pretty flowers. Middle of the garden. Again, don't over water. 
*Day Lilies: Interesting color variations. Middle of the garden.
*Gladiolas: I almost didn’t put that one in here. They can be persnickety. However, I threw in some cheap Walmart bulbs last summer. I was in a hurry and didn’t even take the time to amend the soil. Sure enough, they came up and I had gorgeous vase flowers! Back of the garden.
*Lavender: Smells great. Middle of the garden.
*Phlox: Smells wonderful! Pretty in vases. Middle or back of the garden, depending on the variety you plant. Spreads like wildfire, so don't hesitate to pull.  

Color For Late Summer

*Cone flowers: Awesome! Plant tons. Back of the garden.
*Black-eyed Susans: Gorgeous. Mid to Back of the garden. Great in vases.
*Bee Balm: Love this plant! Worth the wait. And as the name suggests, bees and butterflies love it too! Comes in different colors.

Black-eyed Susans

Bee Balm

Color for Fall
*Mums: Easy care favorite. All colors. Check the tag before you plant. Some can grow to five feet across! Mid-Back of the garden, depending on the variety.
*Asters: Again, check the variety. Usually middle of the garden.
*Autumn Clematis: Smells like baby powder. Gorgeous climber and does well in shade.

Autumn Clematis

Now for a note on where you buy your plants. I am not against big box stores like Walmart. In fact, I have a “rescue garden” in my alley that’s filled with plants from these places that were left to die on the 50% off table. However, there is something to be said for quality. I view my perennials as a long-term investment, so I try to plant the best I can find. These are usually found in private greenhouses and elite garden centers. This will bristle some, but I’ve been gardening for many years, and I just find that the plants I spent more money on look bigger and better. Feel free to debate this.

One last note: Plants need to be fed. I am no expert on fertilizer, and quite frankly this is not an area to go into with ignorance. You can really screw things up if you don’t know what you’re doing. I simply attach Miracle Grow liquid fertilizer to my hose, and give everything a spraying down once in late spring, once mid summer, and once in early fall. Easy and everything’s doing great!

Best of luck, my fellow gardeners. Remember: God Smiles in Flowers!

1 comment:

  1. What great tips Michelle! I love to garden as well, and concur with all your suggestions, especially daylillies!