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
Japanese anemone. One of the glories going into autumn, single hot pink flowers. Flowers in autumn and again in summer. Prefers full sun or shade in well drained soils. Flower spikes 70cm. Ideal for woodland planting where it will spread quickly. Perennial
This is a tough and hardy and spreads by strong fibrous roots so give it room to spread and you will be well rewarded.
Colour: Pink Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x spreads
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
Fabulous foliage plant for adding texture to your garden. Large crinkly edged leaves that I suppose you could describe as dull green however there is nothing dull about this plant. Use in large drifts under trees as this perennial will happily grow in a shady situation. Evergreen.
Colour: Yellow Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 60cm
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
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
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