Using perennial flowers in your garden

Autumn is a good time for stocking your garden with new plants.  And when it comes to planting, perennials are the proverbial “box of chocolates” – the choice is almost limitless and they are all so tasty!

sweeps of perennials, flowering plants, garden, irish, flowers, design

Perennial flowers in a client’s garden (only one year from planting!)

There is huge variety in foliage, flowering time and they come back year after year with limited maintenance.  Just cutting back, dead-heading and division.   Perennials can be planted in many different styles – formal contained by box hedging, sweeps and swathes with grasses or a more randomised cottage style.  What colours do you want to see?  What sort of maintenance have you got in mind?  Then select accordingly.

Many of my clients prefer to see sweeps of planting and repetition rather than a completely random approach.  For mass planting large areas this makes sense.  So you need to have some reliable plants that you know are going to work.

I will devise different mixes suitable for different parts of the garden.  So I will have a sunny perennial mix for an open south facing spot and perhaps a shady mix under a large tree or a mix suitable for a wet area in another part of the garden.

My sunny mix will include perennials such as:  Alstroemeria, Penstemon, Erysimum (wallflower) and Echinacea (Coneflower), Leucanthemum (Ox-eye Daisy) and Agapanthus (African Lily).

plants for a shade garden, perennial flowers under a tree, partial shade planting, low maintenance gardens

A shady perennial mix I devised for a client under a beautiful Oak tree including hellebores and ferns

My shady mix will include ferns, such as Polystichum, Hellebores (Christmas Rose), Dicentra (Bleeding Hearts), and Pulmonaria (Lungwort).

I like to leave the seedheads on as long as possible and I don’t mind plants falling around on top of each other.  Tidying can be done, as you go, or in the autumn if you are a neat gardener but you may miss out on spectacular shapes, colours of decaying vegetation and silhouettes in the winter.  Also select your evergreen shrubs, topiary and trees so that they take over from the perennials at off-peak times.  At peak times these are simply acting as backdrop or a foil for the perennial plants.

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Acanthus mollis (Bear’s breeches)

I don’t mind perennials flopping about the place.  I sort of do: tall at back, medium in middle, low at edge, but not always.  I prefer to keep this generally in mind and to mix it up a bit.  This means you are walking past some tall at the front which is nice for touch, smell, and vision.  My favourite tall perennial at the moment is Acanthus mollis (Bear’s Breeches).  Useful edge plants are Ajuga and Acaena microphylla (New Zealand Bur).  Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) is good for weaving in-between other plants.

favourite groundcover and edging plants irish gardens

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