Perennials provide low-maintenance, high-performance gardens

Perennials provide low-maintenance, high-performance gardens

When creating new garden beds, impatience often gets the best of us. We are an “instant gratification” society, and many people don't have the patience (or the foresight) to wait for perennials to flower.

In fact, it takes a good three years for most perennials to show their beauty, but there are ways to achieve an acceptable option by using purchased plants and interspersing them with bulbs for the following spring or summer season.

For low maintenance, choose hardy perennials that resist pests and diseases and grow quickly to stifle weeds. impossible? No, not with garden mainstays like daffodils, creeping phlox, peonies, poppies, daylilies, Asiatic lilies, hostas, perennial asters and mums. These provide three seasons of color, texture and visual interest that are easy to care for, while becoming prettier and more beautiful every year.

Use a large peony (or two or three depending on your space) for the focal point, slightly off-center. Surround it with two or three hostas on one side, daylilies on the other, and three or four Asiatic lilies arching around the daylilies. Counteract all of this with a few extra daylilies, a big bunch of daffodils (or daffodils, whichever you prefer), and a gorgeous oriental bubbly.

For the front, a carpet with creeping phlox for spring/summer flowering and greenery for the rest of the season, surrounded by mums or perennial asters (the rich purple blooms of Michaelmas come to mind).

Consider the possibilities. You can choose lilies in a variety of colours, lilies in pretty pink, golden yellow or even burgundy instead of the old orange; Daffodils can be yellow, pink, white, or fragrant pheasant's eye daffodils if you prefer. The color of the poppy can be traditionally red, pink or white with a black eye – all to match the color of the peonies.

Other possibilities come to mind as well: Campanula (pink, blue, or white); Luxurious and fragrant valerian. Tall phloxes are a mass of delphiniums (although they may justify this after three or four years); Six Hill Giant Nepeta; Mass of Veronica. Culinary sage and betoni (Staches) which are often harmful.

On a side note, I would be remiss if I didn't include an excerpt of legendary local gardener Louis Wyeth's praise of Petoni in her herb newsletter years ago. She wrote: “Are you feeling depressed? Do you suffer from abdominal pain, asthma, or bronchitis? Twisting something or other? Sore throat, headache or anxiety attacks? The Romans mentioned 47 uses for betony, including getting rid of evil spirits. Seventeenth-century herbalists listed 30 uses. Contemporary English herbalists, such as John Lust, list many uses, and Leslie Bremis says these include a yellow tincture and a hair wash that can highlight the golden tones in gray hair – plus it's great in smoking and snuff mixtures, and good for poultices and diarrhoea.

As for me, I completely agree with her praise of Bitoni and can attest to its virtues. As a hardy perennial, it does very well in our zones 4-5 while in full sun or partial shade. You can start with seeds, but like most perennials, take it slow and you'll have better luck with the plant. It will happily allow you to divide it in the spring to expand your garden or share it with friends.

But, back to these gorgeous perennials as a group. All of these hardy selections thrive in sunny locations except for the hostas, which will be placed in the peony's shade. They all also like well-drained soil.

One location for everyone – a beauty for the eyes and a haven for butterflies. The flowers bloom from late spring to early fall, and even when they are not in bloom, the plants provide interest for everyone. The arching foliage of daylilies complements the bright green peony bush, and the blue-green leaves of poppies remain after the flowers have disappeared for a welcoming accent that lasts until mid-autumn.

A little mulch in the winter and treating the soil in the spring is all this garden requires.

As a hardy perennial, betoni does very well in this area in full sun or partial shade. You can start with seeds, but like most perennials, take it slow and you'll have better luck with the plant.
Do you want a garden that provides beauty and a haven for butterflies? Look no further than perennials like daylilies.
Vali Novak

Editor's Note: For many years, Vali Novak wrote gardening and cooking columns for the Daily Bee. The “Weekend Gardener” and “Country Chef” have become famous for their humor, information and sound advice on how to do everything from gardening to cooking. She has left behind many columns to the delight of her many fans. This is one such column, originally published on January 14, 2001.

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