Creating Beautiful Perennial Gardens
Creating a beautiful perennial garden doesn’t require years of experience, hour-upon-hour of constant care, or even a so-called “green thumb.” It’s more a matter of careful planning and choosing proper planting material, coupled with a heavy dose of common sense. As a guide to help you achieve outstanding results, Spring Hill’s professional nurserymen offer these basic guidelines:
Select a location with good drainage and sufficient sun. Soil which already has plenty of organic matter, ample nutrients, and a consistency which allows good air and moisture circulation, as well as good drainage, is a strong foundation for roots and requires little pre-planting attention.
If your soil is clay-like and heavy, it should be spaded or rototilled to a depth of 12-18”. Then mix the soil with an equal amount of peat moss, compost, sand or other light material.
Even if your garden has good soil with adequate drainage, the bed should be worked to a depth of at least 12” before you plant your new perennials.
Cover your beds with a 2-4” layer of mulch so the soil will retain moisture and reduce weed growth. Any organic material may be used as mulch. Spread the mulch in an even layer about 4” deep. (That might seem a bit heavy, but loose mulch will settle down to about half of its original depth.) Be careful not to bury your plants.
Don’t try to fill every available spot at one time. Remember, most perennials multiply and expand annually. For the first year or two, use annuals to fill in around your perennials.
The best effect comes from massing several similar plants together. It is best to group a minimum of three plants or a single variety in one area.
Think in terms of three growing heights – background, middle ground and foreground. Taller plants should go to the background, with lower-growing plants in the foreground.
When mixing perennials, consider the types of foliage as well as the color and shape of the flowers. The most beautiful perennial beds contain a mixture of different foliage hues and textures.
Consider seasons of blooming. Mix perennials with different blooming times in each bed so you’ll have a continuous display of color for an extended period.
Don’t position plants in a straight line like a row of soldiers. All perennials look best when plants are staggered in an irregular pattern.
Consider the amount of sun your garden will receive – not just in the spring, but during the summer and early fall when surrounding trees have their full foliage.
Don’t overlook the reflected light and heat which plants will receive. Perennials which thrive in full sun out in a garden can deteriorate quickly when planted too close to the south or west sides of a building where heat and light are bouncing off the surfaces onto the foliage of nearby plants.
Choose planting locations with access to water. Since you will need to water plants when rainfall doesn’t do the job, consider whether your beds can easily be reached with a garden hose.
Be patient! Just as “might oaks from tiny acorns grow,” it takes time for perennials to develop strong root systems and start producing sizable top growth. Most of the products pictured in Spring Hill’s catalogs and on the website show how perennials will look after they’ve had three years to mature in a garden. Much of the joy in creating a beautiful perennial garden is watching your plants grow. And the years of charm and beauty they will bring to your garden for so many years to come is well worth the wait!
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