June is National Perennial Gardening Month! Simply put, perennials are plants which produce new growth for more than two years. They are garden mainstays which, with periodic cutting back and division, will flower year after year. Most successful gardens have a balance of trees, shrubs, annuals, biennials and perennials planted with a plan for successive bloom or interest through all four seasons.
Not all perennials are alike.
Some have fabulous blooms, other are grown primarily for interesting foliage.
Some may be viney climbers, others mounding clumpers and still others tall fountain-like sprays. There is a perennial to fit just about any color, shape or size you desire.
Some develop woody/twiggy stems requiring more tidying up, others are herbaceous with soft stems and foliage throughout their season.
While a few are evergreen, many will die to the ground to take a rejuvenating winter nap. Still others sort of look as though they are hovering between life and death, rewarding you with a renewed vigor as spring approaches.
Areas with severe winter weather conditions often grow perennials which they treat as annuals (not enough growing season/soggy roots cause rot) by replacing them every year. Conversely, we in often very mild winter climes sometimes need to encourage perennials to go dormant as the soil/air temperature may not get low enough to give them the message naturally. Just like your 3 year old who doesn’t want to take as nap–you as the parent know how much the rest will benefit the kiddo’s overall demeanor–so it goes will recalcitrant perennials.
While June is the perennial garden’s special month, take heed! In hot summer areas like mine this is the month for PLANNING the perennials you want to add to your garden–NOT PLANTING them. Fall is the best time to get most perennials in the ground to give them time to put down good roots and take advantage of whatever winter rain might grace your garden. Arm yourself with knowledge about the optimal growing conditions for each perennial plant you are considering as seriously as your would for a shrub or tree purchase. They are built to last!
A few more June blooms from my garden…
Good resources to research perennials to add to your garden include the old stand-by Sunset Western Garden Book, the New Southern Living Garden Book, Armitage’s Garden Perennials by Allan M. Armitage and California Home Landscaping from the Creative Home series. The website http://www.perennials.com has an excellent database of over 4000 plants and several great articles on choosing, planting and maintaining your perennial garden.