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  • Written by  Joan Cosway-Hayes – 2017 Cochrane’s Best Yard Contest Winner

    A perennial plant is one that is dormant in winter and comes back a little bigger and a little stronger every spring. An annual plant thrives in the summer and fall but dies off with the cold weather. Annuals have to be replanted every year (ie petunias etc). Choosing the right plant for the right location is the foundation of gardening success. As discussed in the last post, choosing the right plants for our gardening zone is important too.

    When you buy perennial plants, each pot should have a tag attached with info about the plant’s identity, Latin name, characteristics, needs, hardiness (zone) and care. Tip: these tags are invaluable, keep them and organize them on pages according to where the plants are located so you can keep an eye on plant care and progress.

     

    Before buying plants, decide on what you want to grow (annuals or perennials or a mixture of both). Decide on how much maintenance you are willing to do. Sorry, there is no such thing as a maintenance free yard, but you can reduce the amount of maintenance by the plants you choose. For example, don’t plant perennials that will vigorously self-seed every year unless you are willing to set aside at least an hour a week to deadhead them. (Deadhead means to pick or cut-off spent blooms before they go to seed). Avoid invasive plants that spread rapidly by root systems that are almost impossible to remove ie Goutweed, or ‘Feesey’ grass. Keep weeds under control by removing all of their roots.

    Choose properly zoned plants for the Cochrane zone 3b and/or your yard’s microclimates so that they will ‘bloom where they are planted’. Plant shade-loving plants in the shade and sun-loving plants in the sun. Make sure your soil is a good all-round base soil (like NutriLoam). Add a small handful of bonemeal to the planting hole when planting bulbs and perennials. Water regularly until roots are established (about 6 weeks). Fertilize with organic liquid fertilizers throughout the growing season.

     

    Planting a perennial garden is like writing a symphony. We want the plants to come into bloom in a blended and balanced way throughout the seasons, with colours, shapes, and textures all in harmony.

    The following perennial plants will take you from spring to fall in zone 3b with a succession of bloom and loads of colour:

    scilla, tulips, narcissi, daffodils, grape hyacinth, perennial alyssum, whitley’s speedwell, turkish speedwell, globeflower, bergenia, cushion spurge, forget-me-not, bleeding heart, blue flax, siberian iris, creeping thyme (coccineus is my fave), iris, perennial sage, lady’s mantle, daylily (Stella de Oro is my fave), carpathian bellflower, maiden pinks, serbian bellflower, dwarf spike speedwell, threadleaf coreopsis zagreb, goldleaf bellflower, desert eve yarrow, moonshine yarrow, munstead dwarf lavender, dwarf russian sage, goldsturm coneflower, fall helenium, autumn joy sedum, herbstonne coneflower. None of the above plants are invasive as long as they are properly deadheaded.

    Then there are the greens and grasses: silver mound artemisia, hens and chicks, lamb’s ears, fancy leaf coral bells, ferns, hostas, feather reed grass ‘karl foerster’, variegated moor grass. The climbers: clematis viticella polish spirit and hops both green and bianca. Shrubs: dwarf korean lilac, red osier dogwood. Annuals: petunias, annual sunflowers, marigolds, lobelia and so many more.

    I can’t finish this post without leaving you with important tips:

    • make sure that you leave enough room for perennial plants to spread out to their future size. If there are gaps in the first few years put in a few annuals to fill space and bring extra colour
    • buy good quality plants and bulbs
    • watch the plant tags for zones and don’t inadvertently buy a zone 6
    • bulbs are planted in the fall and come up in the spring; tulips, daffodils, narcissi, grape hyacinth. Get them in the ground 6 weeks before winter freeze up.
    • did you know that if you properly deadhead Stella de Oro daylilies, they will bloom happily from summer to fall?

    I could go on and on …. that will get you started. For lots more info on caring for perennials get a copy of Lois Hole’s book Perennial Favorites, it’s a great resource.

    Please drop by Cochrane’s Best Yard 2017 and say hi … if you can figure out where we are (I’ve given you a few hints). Have fun!