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.
A popular member of the Iris family with narrow green sword like foliage and strong stems of open butterfly like blooms. The blooms have white falls with mauve standards and a splash of gold in the centre. Plant in sun or semi-shade and protect from harsh frost. Evergreen perennial.
Dietes grandiflora is a dramatic landscaping plant when planted en masse and allowed to multiply. I've actually got one growing in a large terracotta pot which looks pretty good too.
Colour: White / Purple Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 100cm x 60cm
This cold hardy, perennial form of candytuft, is a little charmer with pretty evergreen foliage which is covered in a blanket of large clusters of snow white flowers from mid to late spring. Excellent for the border and in containers or as an effective groundcover. Perennial.
Colour: White Habit: Mounding Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 30cm x 50cm
Lavandula. Fern Leaf Lavender. Originating in Australia this is a slightly different lavender with fine deeply divided grey leaves. The flowers appear for long periods and are coloured and intense violet blue. Likes the sun and protection from frost. Just a bit different. Evergreen.
Colour: Blue / Purple Habit: Open Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 80cm x 100cm
This Aussie perennial is ideal for group planting in sun or part shade. Fine needles of lime-green foliage form an attractive clump and look good all year round. Little stems of yellow fragrant flowers in summer. Tolerates poor soil but likes good drainage. Easy to grow. Evergreen.
Colour: Yellow Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 50cm
Native. A terrific little ground cover with clusters of dainty, fragrant, white flowers that appear from winter through to spring and occasionally at other times of the year. Neat and tidy small grey leaves that form a spreading mat. Quite tough and hardy, responds to trimming. Evergreen. PVR.
Pimelea look lovely cascading over a wall or bank. They can be trimmed lightly after flowering to encourage new growth. This plant would even look good in a hanging basket.
Colour: White Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 25cm x 75cm