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 hardy perennial that is the Basil you have when you don’t have any Basil. Spreads easily so container planting may be a good option.
Add late in the cooking as the mint aroma fades quickly. Finely chop leaves and use them in salad dressings, marinades and sauces. Add to salads and vegetables for an exotic flavour. Tastes a lot like Sweet Basil so partners well with similar strong flavoured herbs.
Also known as Vietnamese coriander, Cambodian mint and laksa Leaf this has to be my favourite Asian herb. Native to peninsular South-East Asia this is a perennial herb, which has striking pointed leaves, lime green in colour with dark inner markings. With purple stems the whole plant evokes a wonderfully strong citrus aroma with a taste to match.
The famed Curry Leaf plant, native to India and Ceylon, lends its pungent scent as a main ingredient in delicious curries. The many segmented foliage is borne on a compact bush convenient for harvesting.
Colour: White Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 6m x 4m
The Chatham Island forget-me-not is a stunning perennial with large, glossy ribbed foliage topped off with bold clusters of brightest blue flowers in summer and spring. Grow in a sheltered shady spot. Must have protection from afternoon sun. If happy will form a large clump. Evergreen.
Colour: Blue / White Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 45cm x 30cm
AKA as Chilean Guava or NZ Cranberry. A reliable little shrub with tight small leaves in an attractive bronze green shade. Little white flowers in spring are followed by fragrant edible berries. Easy to grow, clips well so can be used for topiary or hedging. Evergreen.
Colour: White Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1m x 1m
A perennial Nemesia with dainty stems of raspberry red and white fragrant flowers set amongst the green foliage. Likes a morning sun or part shade position and will be at its best in early spring. Trim off spent flower heads to encourage re-bloom. Evergreen. PVR.
Colour: Red / White Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 0.3m x 0.3m
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 useful and attractive perennial with grey/green foliage and pretty sprays of mauve blue flowers that appear from spring right through to autumn. Useful as an edging for flower beds. Loves a sunny position and a good haircut every now and then. Hardy, evergreen and yes cats love it!
Colour: Mauve / Blue Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 50cm x spreads
Sometimes described as cat marijuana not only will this perennial make your cat happy it will look great in the garden as well. Grey green foliage and gorgeous lavender blue flowers right through summer. Can be trimmed and tidied anytime. Useful as a low border. Prefers a sunny well drained spot.
Colour: Mauve / Blue Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 0.3m x 0.3m
Cup-shape white blooms over mats of rapidly spreading green foliage. Moderate foot traffic. Prefers light shade to sun and moist to wet soils. Plants grown in more sun will bloom more heavily, but will also require more moisture. Perennial