In designing with plants, it is the perennials that ensure that there is constant change, and that there is always an element of surprise or interest in the garden.
Getting to know the dormant and flowering periods of the plants is essential to achieving the right balance in the design, so that as one perennial goes to sleep, another awakens.
Perennials, perhaps more than any other group of plants, are available in a huge range of colours, forms, textures and fragrances in both foliage and flower. There are perennials suitable for almost every area of the garden: from full sun to full shade, in large gardens or small beds and to suit every mood or style. Popular perennial plants include Penstemon, Gaura, Canna, Dahlias, Salvias, Lupins, Columbines, Lilies, Delphiniums and Hellebores - oh! the list is endless.
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A perennial plant (Latin per, "through", annum, "year") is a plant that lives for more than two years, unlike an Annual which grows, sets seed, gayly disperses it and then dies - all in a single season. Perennial plants are divided into two large groups: those that are woody and those that are herbaceous. They can be short-lived (only a few years) or they can be long-lived, and can vary in size from only a few millimeters to over 10 meters tall. They include a wide assortment of plant groups from Ferns to the highly diverse flowering plants like Orchids and Ornamental Grasses.
Perennials typically grow structures that allow them to adapt to living from one year to the next. These structures include bulbs, tubers, woody crowns, rhizomes plus others. They might have specialized stems or crowns that allow them to survive periods of dormancy over cold or dry seasons during the year. Many perennials have adapted to survive under extreme environmental conditions: some can survive hot dry conditions, or cold temperatures. These plants tend to invest a lot of resource into their adaptations and often do not flower and set seed until after a few years of growth.
Many perennials produce relatively large seeds, which can have an advantage as they produce larger seedlings after germination that can better compete with other plants or more quickly develop leaves, ensuring their survival.
In warmer climates, perennials grow continuously. In seasonal climates, their growth is limited to the growing season. For example, in temperate regions a perennial plant may grow and bloom during the warm part of the year, with the foliage dying back in the winter. These plants are deciduous perennials. Regrowth is from existing stem tissue. In some species, perennials retain their foliage all year round; these are evergreen perennials. Come in and take a look around. We've always got something pretty, perky and persuasive in the perennial line.
Succulent. This succulent shrub has branching woody stems with black leaves which are arranged as rosettes and the flowers are borne on large pyramid shaped racemes. Refresh the bush with a post flower prune. Fully hardy, wind and coastal tolerant. Prefers full sun to part shade.Perennial
Colour: Yellow Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 100cm x 60cm
This is one of the wonders of the plant world. Handsome grey succulent leaves a metre or more long form a large rosette on top of a metre tall trunk and, when inclined after several years, it sends up a flower stem 4 to 5 metres tall which holds weeping branches carrying hundreds of greeny white bell flowers. Evergreen.
Colour: Cream Habit: Rosette Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 2m
Large enough and showy enough to use as specimen plants with dramatic large, rounded-heart shaped leaves with an attractive puckered surface, in a soft blue green hue. Early summer brings trumpet shaped blossoms, in white with a kiss of lavender. Happy in semi-shaded position in soil that does not dry out in summer. Perennial.
Colour: White / Lavender Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 90cm x 110cm
Rosemary. A classic culinary herb suitable for use in all manner of dishes but especially with lamb. Attractive aromatic foliage and pretty blue flowers that appear mostly in summer. Use as a herb, ornamental shrub or for hedging. Prefers the sun and good drainage. Bees love it. Evergreen.
Colour: Blue Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.3m x 1m
Gentian Sage. Bright green, hairy aromatic foliage and stems of vivid blue, tubular flowers in summer and autumn. Very striking and lovely for the mixed border. Prefers protection from afternoon sun and harsh frost. Dies down after flowering to tuberous roots. Perennial.
Colour: Blue Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 60cm
This delightful and dainty little Thyme is perfect for use as a ground-cover in a warm sunny well drained position or just enjoy some in a pot. The little bright green leaves are smothered by dainty white flowers in summer. Forms a neat and tidy mat. Evergreen.
Can be used for culinary purposes if desired. Trim lightly after flowering to keep compact and avoid over fertilizing as generally Thyme are best left to their own devices.
Colour: White Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 10cm x 30cm
My favourite Thyme for cooking as it has a superb flavour and aroma that carries a hint of Oregano. Lovely dark green leaves. Fabulous in meat and tomato dishes and of course Pizza. Happy in sunny well drained position in the garden or a container. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Ground-cover Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 20 x spreading
This pretty little Thyme is usually grown more as an ornamental than a herb because of its attractive, dainty, silver-green leaves that are edged with white. Lilac flowers in summer. Highly aromatic. Plant in sunny well drained spot. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 30cm x 60cm
A charming little perennial with dainty glossy green foliage that shows bronze tones when new. The little flowers are a soft blue-mauve shade with a white eye. Easy to grow in morning sun or part shade, has a spreading habit. Flowers from late spring through to autumn. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve Habit: Ground-cover Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 10cm x 30cm