purple iris
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Add perennial power to your garden


Caption:Perennial plants like Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) tolerates full sun to part shade and provides year-round interest.  Photo credit:photo courtesy of MelindaMyers.com

by Melinda Myers

Create long lasting beauty and pollinator appeal in your landscape with the help of perennials. With a little bit of planning, you can have flowers, foliage and seed heads that add interest to your garden year-round.

Select perennials including native plants that thrive in the sunlight, soil, and moisture conditions in your garden. Incorporate several inches of compost or other organic matter into the top eight to 12 inches of soil to improve the soil so your perennials will be healthy, showy, and long-lived plants.

As you select your plants, consider seasonal foliage and flower color as well as texture.  Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow make large areas appear smaller, energize the space, and make it feel warmer. Cool colors of blue, green, and violet make small areas feel larger, hot areas seem cooler, and create a sense of tranquility.

Large leaves and flowers are bold and create a focal point while small flowers and narrow leaves create a sense of depth when used in the back of the garden and they make a nice backdrop for bold textured plants.

Maximize beauty in every square inch and extend your budget with plants that provide multiple seasons of interest.

Look for opportunities to include spring flowering bulbs like daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and grape hyacinths into the landscape. Although their blooms are relatively short lived, these spring beauties are sure to brighten the garden and help chase away the winter blues. Add these to your fall planting list.

Include some spring, summer, and fall blooming perennials with season long foliage, fall color or winter interest. You will find many great options at your local garden center. Plants like Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica), hardy in zones 3 to 9, tolerates full sun to part shade, has beautiful flowers in spring, nice foliage, fall color, and persistent seeds capsules for winter interest.  Nonaggressive catmint (Nepeta) varieties flower all summer long with minimal maintenance. End the season with showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa). Its bright yellow flowers add a burst of color to the fall garden and provide food for pollinators migrating through or overwintering in your garden. The dried flowers add interest to the winter garden.

Include some ornamental grasses. Their fine foliage is a great addition to the garden and most come into their full glory in fall. Leave them stand for winter and enjoy the motion and texture they provide.

Don’t let gardening in the shade stop you from creating season long beauty. Consider shade lovers that add multiple seasons of beauty to those shady spots in the landscape like barrenwort (Epimedium), variegated Solomon’s seal, and coral bells.

Let your healthy perennials stand in the garden all winter long. Their dried leaves, stems and seed heads provide winter interest and help attract birds to the garden. They also provide winter homes for many beneficial insects.  You’ll enjoy the motion and color the birds and standing perennials add to drab winter days.

Start taking pictures of your landscape throughout the year. Then look for opportunities to add year-round perennial beauty to your gardens and landscapes.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including the recently released Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and her website is www.MelindaMyers.com.