Here are Western Plant Nursery we have worked a lot lately with Tidy Towns committees in the Sligo region and the message coming from the organisers is clear, bedding and baskets are beautiful but the smart money is on more sustainable planting. Planting with a strong vision of the future. In a world full of built in obsolescence perennials plants are just the solution. They are showy plants but do not require the endless watering and weekly liquid feeding and deadheading that bedding plants thrive on. Perennials will come back year after year, there is an achingly large selection of plants to choose from but I will focus on my favourites.
What is a perennial plant? This is a really commonly asked question and a perennial is very simply a plant which dies down in the winter but grows back each spring. Perennials are really useful in the garden, they can be depending upon to come back, and they are generally very generous in their flowering habits. If trees and shrubs are the bone structure of the garden well perennials are the powder and paint.
As I mentioned perennials will die back in the winter and return each spring, some will spread in the garden by self-seeding, like foxgloves and others by increased root systems. If they spread by roots they can be lifted carefully in autumn or spring and divided, you can do this every two to three years depending on the type of plant, and how much they have spread. There are two advantages to dividing plants, it will renew the vigour of the plant and help to keep it healthy and you end up with double or treble the amount of plants you started off with.
Here at Western Plant Nursery we have a natural leaning towards perennials plants that will tolerate our coastal conditions.
1. Eryngium or sea holly, these plants are grown both for their unusual marbled grey foliage as they are for their silver to purple thistle like flowers. They flower from mid-summer to autumn and are perfect in a seaside garden.
2. Erysium or everlasting wall flower, this is such a pretty plant, from its slivery foliage to its bright purple flowers. It is brilliant is coastal conditions, it will tolerate drying winds and has a long flowering period from early spring right trough to mid-summer, just snip away the old flowering stems once they are finished to encourage more flowers.
3. Heuchra – (coral bells) are a wonderful plant, that are grown as much for their foliage as their flowers. Plants come in a range of foliage colours like deep reds right through to bright limes. The flowers or cream, white or pink are a bonus being very light and frothy in appearance and long lasting.
4. Perennial geraniums are less showy then the plants we would associate with summer bedding geraniums but none the less they are a welcome sight. There is a number of varieties to consider from the very reliable Johnston’s Blue, Ann Folkard which has bright almost gold foliage and magenta flowers a great ground covering geranium, pretty geranium Ballerina with it delicate leaves and pale pink veined flowers, it will stay small and flower on and off through to autumn.
5. Salvia nemorosa Cardonna or Amethyst – (clary sage) these are great flowering plants, as the flowers last from mid-summer on into the autumn, the flowering spires open from the bottom up in purple shades and the flowers dry on the stem to increase the longevity of the show. Also a great plant to attract bees and butterflies into the garden.
6. Digitalis or foxgloves, if you live in a rural area you will be familiar with this plant; it is tough, does not require staking and will self-seed in the garden. The plant produces tall spires (up to 2m in height) of bell shaped flowers of soft pink to purple. Again foxgloves are a real magnet for bees. Whether you want to create a cottage feel or a very contemporary garden, foxgloves will fit right in.
7. Agapanthus or African lily, these flowers arrive in mid to late summer and are real beauties, the trumpet like flowers creating a globe shape on each stem. Flowers are deep blues and the foliage is strap like. Agapanthus can be grown to great effect in border or decorative containers. Accompanied by grasses or astelias and it has a very modern feel but team it with Sedum autumn glory to bring it back to a more cottage garden look.
Perennials are not demanding plants, but planting in a well prepared bed or border and mulching with well rotten manure will really help you get the most from these useful plants. Some will require staking and dead heading but it is well worth the show.
If you are interested in designing a border in your garden, why not pop into Western Plant Nursery with some pictures on your phone and basic dimensions and we will assist you.