|Hellebore Helleborus sp. in my daughter's New Jersey garden.|
My daughter sent me a picture of a lovely hellebore blooming in her garden. It illustrates perfectly the topic of this post: what makes a perfect perennial? Sydney Eddison in her book, Gardening for a Lifetime, lists six standards of good behavior for a perennial. Her sage advice was written a decade ago, but is valid still. Sydney says:
A perennial must ...
1. be truly perennial and return every year
2. be healthy
3. have fortitude to endure cold winters (very important in the Poconos)
4. have superior, or at least good, foliage for most of the season
5. maintain a tidy habit, not flopping nor sprawling, and must remaining in reasonable bounds
6. resist predators, pests or diseases.The hellebore meets all of the criteria. Mine aren't in bloom yet, as my garden is a couple of zones colder than my daughter's; I can't wait to see their lovely faces.
Other plants that exhibit the six attributes, in my opinion, are brunnera, sweet woodruff, pulmonaria, bleeding heart, and astilbe. All of these 'perfect' plants prefer shade; you will find them in my Serenity Garden and/or Woodland Walk.
|The forget-me-not type flowers of Brunnera Macrophylia 'Jack Frost'|
|Sweet Woodruff Galium odoratum|
|Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum is a magnet for bees.|
|Clockwise from top left: Perennial geranium 'Rozanne', Sage Salvia, Yarrow Achillia 'The Pearl', and Blue flag Iris versicolor|
|Mombretia Crocosmia 'Lucifer'|
|David Austin Rose Rosa "Lichfield Angel"|
|Daylily Hemerocallis "Chicago Apache"|
But some plants have had to go. One of them is the obedient plant (which, as you know, is NOT aptly named) ...
|Obedient Plant Physostegia virginiana|
I chose obedient plant because it is very "cottage-garden" looking. It rapidly took over a perennial border and crowded out everything
else. I dig up as much as I can, but some persist -- usually a small clump each year that I can tolerate. The bees love it so.
|The not-so-obedient obedient plant in the Abundance Garden.|
I do agree with Sydney that shrubs are far less work.
Why shrubs? Well, shrubs offer more value for less work, shrubs suitable
for a border need little pruning, they supply strong structural forms,
and they offer year-round interest. However, there are new varieties of perennials that, while formerly quite difficult to grow, have been bred to resist disease, etc. I just completed an assignment writing plant descriptions for a nursery's online catalog. I wrote descriptions for 60 plants, adding several to my wish list. Yes, it was a dangerous assignment. I have ordered some for a bed that I plan to install this year. I will discuss these new plant varieties in a future blog post.
One of the most popular talks that I give to community gardeners is called, "Gardening Smarter Not Harder." In this program I included lots of labor-saving techniques. Find information on my website HERE.
A true expert in the field of gardening smarter is Toni Galdone, a much more eminent speaker than me. I recommend you visit her beautiful blog, The Resistant Gardener. If you are seeking ways to make your gardening techniques easier as you age you must read Toni's book, The Lifelong Gardener.
Good news: it is the first day of spring this weekend and the weatherman has forecast an end to this rain. I'm ready for the sun and for those perfect and not-so-perfect plants in my gardens. Please tell me about yours.
|Hellebore Helleborus 'Ivory Prince'|
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