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 perennial commonly called sea holly has cool prickly like flowers in steel blue shades that look fab in the garden. These unusual blooms are suitable for drying and using in floral arrangements. Loves a sunny well drained spot at the front of the garden.
Colour: Purple Habit: Compact bushy Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 30cm x 30cm
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
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
Rewarding perennial with green strappy foliage that forms a strong little clump and spreads well. Ideal for mass planting or using as an edge along borders and pathways. In summer pale mauve flowers appear and these are followed by attractive berries. Easy to grow. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 25cm x spreads
The Passionfruit vine has attractive mauve and white flowers that turn into yummy round dark purple fruit at the end of summer. To do well your vine must be in a sunny, sheltered, well-drained position. Though self-fertile will often to better when 2 are planted together. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve / White Habit: Climbing Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: Climber
Native. Dainty deep green leaves that quickly form a low mat of tight foliage. In spring and summer myriads of starry shaped white flowers dance above the foliage, followed by fleshy red berries. Plant in sun or part shade in well drained soil that does not completely dry out in summer. Evergreen.
Colour: White Habit: Ground-cover Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 5cm x 200cm
A dainty little mat forming ground-cover with tiny green leaves that get smothered with bright blue, star shaped flowers all summer long. Easy to grow and quite hardy but it is important that it does not completely dry out in summer. Sun or part shade. Evergreen.
Colour: Blue Habit: Ground cover Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 10cm x 40cm
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 pin-cushion bush displays masses of blue flowers above dark green foliage. The flowers are excellent for fresh cut flower arrangements, or left on the plant. Perfect for mass planting in the perennial border. Happy in sun or partial shade. Remove dead flower heads to encourage repeat flowering. Evergreen Perennial.
Colour: Blue Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: cm x cm
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
A very pretty perennial with grey green foliage that forms a rosette. In spring stems of bloom rise above the foliage in tones of smoky lavender and buff. Very pretty - likes the sun and must have good drainage. Remove spent blooms to encourage re-flowering. Perennial.
Colour: Mauve / Cream Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 40cm