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
Gorgeous rosettes of bronze red foliage are topped off with tall stems of vivid red flowers in summer through to autumn. The flowers are loved by birds and butterflies. Happy in the sun in soil that does not dry out in summer. Tolerates light frost. RHS AGM. Perennial.
This perennial will add a real punch of colour to the border or around the pond/stream margins. It is very important that it does not dry out in summer so keep an eye on it especially the first season after planting. Will cope with quite boggy conditions.
Colour: Red Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1m x 25cm
A charming summer flowering perennial with narrow grey-green foliage and stems of slender bell like flowers shaded rose-pink with a cream throat. Likes the sun, fertile soil and good air circulation to do well. Remove spent flower stems to encourage re-bloom. Perennial. RHS AGM.
Colour: Pink / Cream Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 90cm x 40cm
Plants form a low cushion or mound of bright green leaves, bearing short stems of upward facing, cup-shaped red flowers in spring. A great choice for the partially shaded rock garden, wall garden or scree. Likes a cool, moist location. Perennial. Evergreen
Colour: Red / Cream Habit: Mounding Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 20cm x 30cm
This is the perfect Thyme to use as a tough aromatic ground-cover. Little dark green leaves and tiny crimson pink flowers in summer. Hardy and easy to grow. Benefits from a light trim every now and then. Evergreen.
Colour: Assorted / Pink Habit: Ground-cover Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 15cm x spreads
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
The common name for this garden Thyme is Woolly Thyme which relates to the tiny, hairy, grey leaves which form a dense carpet. While not suitable for culinary purposes it is very useful as a ground-cover or for draping over walls and banks. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Ground-cover Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 5cm 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