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Fail-safe Perennials for Sun (Part 1)

Many people make the mistake of buying perennials that are in bloom at that moment in the garden center. They’re intrigued with the color, and stick it anywhere in the garden. They fail to understand that perennials mature for only a few weeks in a season and they fail to read the labels for light conditions. The trick to planting an all-season perennial garden is to understand when different plants bloom, under what conditions they grow, and how to pick the right ones, so that your garden creates a symphony of color, rather than a single fleeting note.

I consider the bloom time as well as the color when I plan a perennial garden. I also buy plants in 3’s or more and I tend to plant in clumps, so I have enough of one plant to make a statement. I like to repeat patterns so that the garden looks mosaic as it matures. Most perennials will self seed, so every few years, you have to dig out and divide. I also constantly move things around in the garden, as plants get established. Here’s my tried and true recipe for a full sun perennial garden:

Sun loving plants have to have at least 4-6 hours of full sun a day. This means they have to be able to tolerate some drought in the hotter weeks of August. I like to pick a complimentary color pallet, like white/blue/yellow, or yellow/orange/red, or pink/white/lavender.

I like to start with Siberian iris (more dainty than bearded). I like the rich blues. I pair this with ladies mantle and lamb’s ear to give texture. I also like to use some creeping phlox or iberis in front of the garden. Both will provide full blooms in May. Just when the iris start to fade in late May, the ladies mantle shows a chartreuse bloom (this color is neutral so it goes with every color). I also use carpet roses, which carry their color through June. A few peonies mixed in will also create a nice focal plant. The peonies are the queen of the garden, but they fade by mid-June. Next I plant coreopsis. There are many varieties and most will last through the hot days of later July. I finish the garden with rudbeckia (black eyed susan) and coneflower, which start to bloom in August and carry over to September. I also pair these with garden phlox in dark purples. I like the purple against the yellow of the back eyed susans. Last, I plant sedums, asters and low growing grasses, which give the garden texture and color in the fall.

Send Jan Peterson an email with your gardening question:

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Past Articles

Five Easy Steps to Beautiful Orchids

The Cabin Fever Cure — Easy To Grow House Plants

Tips for Fabulous Container Gardens

Fail-safe Perennials for Sun (Part 1)

Fail-safe Perennials for Shade (Part 2)

Spring Gardening Tips

Fall Clean Up Tips


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