There once was a gardener long, long ago…
that was known all the around the kingdom for his perennial flower prowess. This gardener, Perennial Peter as he was fondly known by all, sung the praises of his purist perennial posies of every variety, and would not let a plant of another kind grace his country cottage. No annual, no shrub, no bulb, no tree came past his garden gate. Peter went so far as to disparage all that used anything but perennials, yet people still came from miles around the kingdom to see his beautiful flowers break bloom in early June.
Perennial Peter was an acquired taste, yet his garden shone brightly come June.
As time passed and the flowers grew, Perennial Peter became dismayed with his garden. Plants got unruly and his colorful flowers did not last through summer. He started moving flowers and rearranging them willy-nilly, to no avail. The flowers just lost their magic he thought. He went out and bought new perennials thinking that would make the fascination return. But alas, that was not the answer.
“Shrubs are so versatile, serving to border the canvas in which to paint the garden displays. They provide their own color, bloom and texture, but also serve the environment in the fruit and berries they produce. Like trees, they are long-lived and provide a framework in which to build the garden. A garden devoid of shrubs lacks the winter interest a garden may need. Even if they lose their leaves come winter, birds use them for safety in the garden.”
Where people came in early summer, they dwindled by mid summer just as his flowers grew dormant in high heat until next spring. Perennial Peter was not quite the gardener he imagined himself to be.
The next cottage down the path where Micah Mixedbed lived, had all the people who once visited Perennial Peter’s garden. The town folk kept coming from early spring to late winter. They even visited to see Micah’s winter snowdrops covered in fresh fallen snow, his handmade spruce and holly berry wreath decorating the door to his adorable country cottage.
And lo and behold, Micah had all of Perennial Peter’s favorite perennials, but so much more. He had shrubs and trees and annuals blooming all summer long.
“Bulbs, corms, and tubers need little attention once planted if in the correct climate, and provide color through the seasons from the first snowdrops and early crocus to the late-blooming crocus. Groups of bulbs will color the garden and herald the spring long before the summer perennials awake. Summer brings gladioli, lilies, dahlias, canna and tuberous begonia, but some summer bloomers may require lifting in fall.”
“Trees give the garden an air of maturity and permanence. Very few plants provide as much personal pleasure on a grand scale, or make such a beneficial contribution to the environment. Trees maintain their beauty throughout the year and structure the garden they shield and protect.”
Micah had bulbs in bloom from early spring to late fall. Perennial Peter was mesmerized by the mixed beds and borders, all at times his perennials were taking a snooze.
The gardens were ablaze in color and so much more. Birds were nesting, bees were pollinating, and butterflies were enjoying the day. While Perennial Peter’s perennials attracted the wildlife, few made their home among his perennials. He quickly realized he had to abandon his rigid ways, and diversity was the key. He knew he was missing something very, very important.
“Fill the gaps or load those containers, annuals provide a longer-lasting display than any perennial or bulb in the garden. Quite a few will self-seed to bring joy year after year. They accent trees and shrubs, brightening even in part-shade areas. Like annuals, tropical plants (like houseplants) will add a texture, fiery color and leaf size not found in most perennials.”
So Perennial Peter went back to his cottage and sat down to plan his well-rounded mixed beds. He got out his quill and parchment and went to work plotting out trees and shrubs for the birds, and season-long annuals for the insects. He moved his perennials once more and was happy with what he saw. In the next number of years, Perennial Peter was a much happier gardener, and again was known by his given name, Peter Perennial. His garden was once again the talk of the kingdom, just like the garden of Micah.
I love perennials and use them copiously in design, but to establish a professionally designed look like all the images in this post, one needs to consider all levels, scale and massing of the garden plants. Make sure to catch yesterday’s post on selecting the Perennial of the Year. They are plants proven to perform well.