March 6, 2011

Favorite Perennials

It's time for Part Two of my Garden Series.

Today I'm talking Perennials

(If you missed Part 1:  Favorite Annuals you can check it out here)

Perennials are by far my favorite type of plant. 
They give your garden greater variety and are a better investment.  Let's face it, gardening can become expensive very quickly.  You can enjoy perennials for years whereas annuals you need to purchase every spring.  Plus, often times perennials need to be split once they become overgrow which means you suddenly have FREE plants! 

Enough of my chattering lets get to the list . . .

#1:  Phlox

Phlox can be found in a variety of colors and sizes.  In my humble opinion they are one of the best choices you can make for your garden.  Their large cluster of flowers have a big impact from a distance.  Up close they are drop dead gorgeous.  Plus their scent is amazing, they bloom for a long time and are a good choice for arrangements.

I grow mostly the taller, three foot varieties in my garden.  Last summer I did add a few of the twelve inch size and was very happy with them also.  I prefer the soft muted pink and white shades, however I do have a few plants in bright pink as well.  I like to grow them in groups of four or more for big impact in my backyard garden.  In the front yard garden I've have them planted in groups of three.  I think they look best grouped together.

Phlox do tend to get a little lanky by mid-summer which makes it a good idea to plant something in front of them to hide their "legs".  Deadheading will keep them blooming.  However, deadheading Phlox is a little different.  When I first started gardening I thought all deadheading was the same.  You clip off the spent flowers down to the first set of leaves.  Not so with Phlox I soon found out.  If you clip off the flower cluster it will not grow back.  Instead, you need to pluck off the dried petals - they sort of clump together and you just pick them off.  New flowers will emerge to replace the ones you picked off.  Why I was never able to find this little piece of information in a single garden book is beyond me.  A couple years of frustration was rectified once I discovered the correct way to deadhead Phlox.

#2:  Coreopsis

I have two favorites in this group.  The above photo is Early Sunrise Coreopsis. 
Love this plant, it's such a cheerful addition to the garden.  Early Sunrise grow in clumps about twelve inches tall and send up shoots of flowers.  I love this plant for two reasons.  Their long bloom time (all summer long) and their ability to rebloom quickly after deadheading.

My second favorite is Moonbeam Coreopsis like the photo below.

If your looking for a light airy plant that blooms like crazy this is the plant for you.  They grow in large clumps that spread outward and stand about a foot tall.  From a distance, it looks like a mass of yellow, up close the flowers are daisy like.   Although Moonbeam may look delicate, it's one tough plant that requires little to no upkeep besides watering.   Even deadheading is not necessary, plus it will bloom from late spring until fall.

I use both type of Coreopsis in my front and back garden.  They look good planted singly and grouped together.  I've used them both ways.

#3:  Meadow Sage

Meadow Sage was a new addition to my garden last year.  It's a great choice if you need a somewhat compact plant for the front of your garden beds.  It grows in clumps about six inches tall and send up shoots of flowers with a total height of a little under two feet (hint looks amazing in front of Phlox).  One of the reasons I like this plant so much is because of it's tidy appearance.  It's very sturdy and doesn't get floppy by mid-summer.  It does require deadheading once or twice a season to keep it blooming but it's worth the little extra effort for a plant that will bloom all season long.

I've used Meadow Sage in both the front and back gardens and it did very well in both locations.  I plan to add many more this summer by grouping them together for a bigger impact.

#4:  Catnip

Catnip is a beautiful plant with pale purple flowers and dusty white/greyish leaves.  This is a plant that likes to take up space.   A single plant can spread two to three feet once established - - but it's well worth it.  They bloom quickly by late spring and after deadheading will continue to rebloom throughout the season.  Catnip looks good either planted singly or in groups (my preference).  The one complaint I have about this plant is their tendency to flop over.  When this happens you loose the impact of the color from a distance.  To avoid this, I've started inserting plant supports around them in mid-spring to help hold the stems upward and keep the blooms together.  I've used peony cages which worked well and other times I just wrap twine around the plant about a half of a foot above the base.  Both methods work well.

In the backyard garden I have a large grouping of catnip in full sun.  In the front yard I have another grouping in full shade.  Both have done very well, however the group in full shade doesn't always rebloom fulling after deadheading.

#5:  Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox is a delight in early spring.  Truly a welcomed event after of cold, snowy winter.  This compact plant blooms with hundreds of tiny flowers for weeks on end.  Once the blooms are spent, you are left with a dense, glossy green ground cover the remainder of the growing season.

I've used Creeping Phlox in my front yard garden to line the outer edges of the bed.  It looks amazing in spring surrounded by tulips.  During the reminder of the season it's green foliage helps highlight the plants behind it.

#6:  Delphinium

Nothing says "cottage garden" quite like Delphinium.  Truth be told, Delphinium and I have had a rocky start.  I've tried for years to grow them without much luck until last year.  I have high hopes for this year.  I wish I could give more tips on this plant but since we're just getting to know each other I fear anything I say would be unhelpful considering my track record.  Regardless, I think Delphinium is a gorgeous plant and I will continue to try my hand a growing them.

#7:  Mums

Autumn just wouldn't be the same without mums.  A lush, rounded, compact plant with hundreds of flowers is truly a welcome addition to the fall garden.  Even when not in bloom, mums add a nice green foliage to the garden.

I purchase mine from the garden center and the grocery store.  I plant some directly into my beds and other I use in planters.  The only problem I've had is that they don't seem to last more then three years when planted in the garden. 

#8:  Aster

Aster is another fall blooming plant that is worth a look at.  One of the reasons I like this plant so much is because of their rounded, neat appearance.  All summer long they almost look like a nicely shaped shrub growing as tall as three feet.  Come autumn they burst into bloom with hundreds of flowers that cover the whole plant.  Sadly their blooms don't last more than a few weeks but I've found that doesn't matter so much.  Their shape and color is a helpful addition with or without flowers.

I have planted Aster in my backyard garden in part sun and full sun.  Both have grown beautifully with no problems other than occasionally becoming a treat for grubs.  Even then, it held it's shape and flowered as normal.
#9:  Lady's Mantel

If your looking to add a lime green flower to your shade garden Lady's Mantel is the plant to buy.   This compact, full ground cover looks best grouped together in large clumps.  By late spring / early summer the most amazing bright lime green flowers bloom making this humble fluted leafy plant a great addition to any shade garden.  The blooms last weeks and then start to fade in color.  I normally wait to deadhead until the flowers have faded into dark yellow since even then they add a nice color.

I have planted Lady's Mantel in my front garden in full shade grouping together six plants or more.  It took a couple of years for them to fill in the space but now they are amazing.

#10: Snow On The Mountain

My all time favorite shade ground cover could never be anything but Snow On The Mountain,  sometimes referred to as Bishops Weed as well.  Whichever you prefer, it's an amazing plant.  I enjoy the fact that it's a little different than your typical Hotsa, although it looks similar. 

Snow On The Mountain is a small, one foot plant that grows best when crowded together.  It's light colored leaves brighten even the darkest of shady spots.  Plus they send up  shoots of delicate white flowers that remind me of Queen Anne Lace in mid-summer.  A prolific spreader, they will quickly fill in a large area of garden space transforming it into a carpet of variegated leaves.  It's truly beautiful encircling trees and shrubs. 

I have used them to fill in the areas between and around a row of pine trees.  They do an excellent job as a ground cover since I rarely, if ever, have to weed wherever they are growing.  Oh, and they bounce back from being trampled by dogs very quickly.   This summer I plan to encircle the tree in the front yard with them as well.

The best thing about this plant is they need little maintenance other than watering.  If by some chance the leaves get a little "crispy" looking mid-summer, simply clip them off and new leaves will quickly regrow.  A weekly watering, even in the hottest months, will keep them looks great and clipping won't be necessary.

The only problem with this plant however is that they like to roam.  So pick a spot which can give them space and they will quickly become one of your favorites.

That's it, my favorite Perennials.

Did any of your favorites make the list?

Hope you enjoyed,


(Next up the garden series: Shrubs - - stay tuned! )


  1. Love all of these plants. Wish I could grow Lady's mantel here, but it gets so hot that plant just melts away! Have a good week, Robin!

  2. Those are beautiful! I love phlox and I have some delphiniums and lady's mantel as well, although I think that I might have lost a few of the lady's mantel. Great choices!

  3. They are all beautiful, but my favorite is the phlox, I have wanted them in my garden for quite some time. Perhaps this will be the year. The asters are also very nice, they are fairly hardy, too. I see them around my neighborhood a lot.
    Hugs, Cindy

  4. Loved your list Robin!! You hit on lots of my favorites. I have snow on the mountain encircling the flowering almonds around my front porch. I just love that stuff!! Like you said, it takes a trampling and keeps on trucking. ;-) Oh!and I had no idea about how to deadhead phlox! Thank you thank you for sharing. I usually just let mine bloom and then croak.

  5. How nice to see all of those flower photos, Robin! Catmint is one of my favs in my garden. I buy the "Walker's Low" and it doesn't flop as much as the larger size. But it blooms all season long and looks good all the time! I trim it back lightly in late July and it bounces back quickly. I planted mine 2 years ago and I do have to split them this spring. Time to give some away! :)

    xoxo laurie

  6. Great list! Gives me some ideas for my garden. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. What a great list! I love delphiniums, but I can't seem to grow them successfully either. I am anxious to see pictures of your garden since you have excellent taste in plants! :)

  8. I love perennials too! So many of these pretty plants I can't grow in Las Vegas. :( I really miss Lady's Mantle! It's a favorite of mine.

  9. you are making me HUNGRY for visiting the garden center and getting going with gardening! But with the current snowy conditions - that would not yet be wise! soon soon right?

  10. ohhhh and I'd LOVE to see the plantings within your overall gardens to see where they fit and how big, etc....we're in a newly forming landscape so I'm trying to plan what to go where and love your suggestions!

  11. I love all of these, I can't wait till spring! :)

  12. Found a few new ones here I'll have to try. My favorite are the delphiniums. Excellent tip on the phlox, I didn't know that!

  13. That is an amazing collection of plants and I would love to see some photos of your garden! I think I can even get some of them here! I can't wait to get back in my own garden again! You have totally inspired me! X

  14. I second Tiff's suggestion, Robin: let's see pictures of your garden! I guess since I'm such a visual person, I need to see things, especially since my biggest struggle with a flower garden is figuring out how to arrange the darn thing.

    You've definitely sold me on phlox, though, and catnip is not something I ever would have thought of planting, but now I'm interested.

    Thank you for so generously sharing your experience here!


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