Gardening with Allen: Perennials offer lasting beauty – The Columbian

Gardening with Allen: Perennials offer lasting beauty – The Columbian

Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at [email protected].

Could you share with us some of your favorite perennial flowers and where you would suggest planting them?

Perennials are the flowers you don’t have to replant every year. Most perennial flowers have shorter bloom periods than annuals. Three- to six-week bloom periods are common. A typical perennial flower border contains varieties with overlapping bloom periods to give continuous bloom. The most appealing borders usually have three or more plants of each variety arranged according to height. However, my plantings frequently contain single plants of new varieties that I am evaluating.

I use fall-planted bulbs to produce the earliest flowers in my perennial flower beds. Clusters of bulbs can be planted wherever there is space between perennial plants after they have been trimmed back in the fall. There is space for the bulbs to grow where later blooming perennials are just beginning to grow in the spring.

Bulbs will come right through ground covers. I either plant the bulbs first and the ground covers right over the top or I make holes for individual bulbs between ground-cover plants.

Two species of rock cress are my favorites for early spring bloom. Arabis has pink or white flowers and Aubrieta has pink or lavender blue flowers. They both grow about 3 to 5 inches tall. They combine well with perennial alyssum, which grows about the same height and has yellow flowers.

I always have a few plants of bleeding heart for early summer color. Lupine and delphinium are also reliable choices for early summer bloom at the back of the border.

My favorite perennial flowers are those with the longest bloom periods. Four of my favorites, which bloom continuously through the summer, are Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria), Rozanne perennial geranium, moonbeam threadleaf coreopsis and Lamium maculatum (nettle).

Peruvian lily has a wide range of colors. Rozanne geranium has sky blue flowers. Moonbeam coreopsis has lemon yellow daisy flowers. Peruvian lily grows about 10 inches. Rozanne and Moonbeam both grow about 16 inches tall. The colors are quite compatible so I often plant them next to each other. All three start blooming in late May to early June. Gaillardia is another long bloomer about the same height with red and yellow daisy flowers. Rozanne, Moonbeam and Gaillardia need at least a half day of direct sun. Lamium is a low ground cover with variegated leaves and flower colors of white, pink, lavender or crimson. It blooms from early spring until fall. Lamium prefers morning sun or partial shade.

My three favorites for late summer are black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), coneflower (Echinaceae) and hosta. Black-eyed Susan is a yellow daisy with black centers that grows about 2 feet tall. Coneflower used to be only purple daisies that grew about 3 feet tall. Now there are varieties that vary from white to several shades of red to purple and heights as short as 12 inches. Black-eyed Susan and coneflower prefer sunny locations. Hosta is grown for its beautiful variegated foliage and needs full shade.

Finally, my favorite perennials for fall bloom are chrysanthemum and New England aster with a wide range of flower colors. Chrysanthemums grow a foot …….