We are becoming more aware of the changing environment and the necessity of using plants that are easy to grow in an assortment of adverse conditions. I have picked 3 tried and true perennials for the spring garden that are sure to please.
Photo credit: anya.andreyeva on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC
1. Salvia n. ‘Caradonna’– Salvia is very hardy, tolerating both poor dry soils and drought conditions. Its aromatic foliage makes it deer and rabbit resistant. It is also relatively free of insect and disease issues. Showy spikes of purple blue flowers emerge in May, lasting well through June. These spent stalks can then be cut down to the thick leafy foliage below and will quite often bloom again. Attractive dark green foliage throughout the growing season. ‘Caradonna’ has distinctive dark stems which add another attractive feature. This perennial is favored by butterflies and other pollinators.
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2. Peonies – This familiar perennial is long lived and many of us remember this flower from out in Grandmother’s garden. Although they do not have a long bloom time, their flowers are truly spectacular. Large ruffles of petals in shades of pink to red to white. They make a fine cut flower to bring beauty into your home, often lasting up to a week. They thrive in any sunny location with decent soil. The foliage is attractive and forms a thick stand 18-24” tall creating a mini hedge in the garden. This can be beneficial to grow along with a summer blooming perennial that tends to become thin at the base giving it a friend to provide skirting. Occasionally they can develop some leaf spot, but I find this easy to prune out if necessary. It is often sporadic at most. I have found that they do not like to be mulched heavy or grown in combination with weed barriers. This seems to encourage mildew especially during a summer/fall drought.
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3. Helleborus– For a dry shady area I choose Helleborus, also known as Christmas or Lenten rose. There are many reasons Helleborus was chosen as the PPA (Perennial Plant Association) plant of the year in 2005. These perennials often remain semi-evergreen with their thick leathery foliage of dark green. Otherwise the bad foliage can be trimmed away from the base in the early spring as the new growth is filling in. They bloom very early, sometimes in March with large clusters of flowers in shades of white, green, pink and burgundy, often with speckled petals. Their flowers remain well into May depending on the variety. They will form a dense thick green coverage for those tough dry shady areas such as under large trees.