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.
This ground cover has good contrast of erect, deep blue flowers with burnished purple foliage in Spring. It spreads by surface runners in the same way as a strawberry plant and can spread indefinitely. Excellent for moist areas. Wonderful for a shady border. Frost hardy trouble-free plant. Perennial.
Colour: Purple Habit: Ground cover Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 10cm x 30cm
If you want a carpet of blue then this is the plant for you! A great groundcover that is quick and easy to grow. Lush rosettes of bronze-green foliage and sturdy stems of bright blue flowers in early spring. Prefers a semi-shaded spot with protection from hot afternoon sun. Evergreen.
Colour: Blue Habit: Groundcover Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 20cm x spreadscm
Summer flowering bulb with large spikes of soft purple flowers topped off with a little tuft on the top. The foliage is quite broad and wavy. The flowers are followed by decorative seed pods. Happiest in a sunny position with well drained soil. Looks good in a container as well.
Colour: Purple Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 50cm x 50cm
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
Blue Oat Grass. Highly desirable perennial 'grass' that has arching, blue-grey, needles of foliage that form a robust clump. Panicles of cream 'oat' like flowers appear in summer. Hardy and easy to grow as long as your soil is well drained. Looks great as an edging or mass planted. Evergreen.
Though this is generally a neat and tidy 'grass' it can be sheared back to encourage new growth if it starts to look a bit scruffy. This is usually done in late winter - just before spring.
Colour: Cream Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 60cm
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
Tall Bearded Iris. Luscious dusky violet falls with striped hafts, gold beard and smoky lilac standards. Sword like grey foliage that forms a clump. Multiplies well. Loves the sun and good drainage. Plant with the rhizome exposed. Perennial.
Dwarf Catmint. Go on make the cat happy and plant at least one of this easy care and pretty perennial. Aromatic grey-green foliage topped off with blue flowers that appear off and on from spring to autumn. Tidy with a quick trim and fresh foliage soon appears. Likes the sun and good drainage. Evergreen.
Catmint looks good as a low edging for borders or as a link plant amongst groups of perennials. Cats do love this plant so be prepared to have at least some of it rolled on, licked and generally loved by your cat. This will induce feverish activity followed by deep slumber!
Colour: Blue Habit: Mounding Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 0.3m x 0.3m
Black Mondo Grass. This unique perennial has distinctive stiff purple-black foliage which clumps together to form little mounds that can be used as a ground cover or edging. Small lilac flowers appear in summer followed by shiny black berries. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 25cm x spreads
Cape daisy is a native of South Africa. Osteospermum is an ideal plant for the early, cool season garden. The large single daisy flowers create a mass of big colour impact in the garden. From pastels to vivid hues of orange and purple, Osteospermum offers a range of colour options for virtually every occasion. Sun loving evergreen perennial.
Colour: White / Blue Habit: Trailing Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 30cm x 50cm
Native. A delightful little ground cover that is great for rock gardens, growing over walls and banks. The dainty foliage is a soft grey/green colour and small fragrant white flowers appear from spring to autumn. Prefers a sunny spot in the garden with well drained soil. Evergreen.
Colour: White Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 15cm x 100cm
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