I’ve always had a thing for English cottage gardens and find that the ramshackle look I love can be achieved without stress and landscaping diagrams by planting 6-10 perennials that make me happy individually and which vary in texture, size, color and blooming schedule.
If you are on a budget and would like to start building a perennial garden gradually, I recommend checking out the flowering plants usually found in hanging pots at your local garden center. Most of the seasonal hanging baskets I’ve purchased contain perennials which can easily be transplanted to the garden after their blooms have died out or they’ve begun to outgrow their pots.
Some dianthus I bought in March, for instance, had become overgrown and leggy, so I divided them and planted them in a bed with an existing hellebore and some irises. After the first killing frost (if we have one) I’ll cut all of their stems back to 1-2″ and cover with mulch. Next spring they will come back hearty and lush, joined by some sedum that has wandered out of its bed as well.
My favorite perennials below include a variety of climbers, ground-cover, bulbs, showy blooms, and fragrant attractors of bee and butterfly.
Including edible plants in a perennial garden offers its own reward. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, and lavender are fragrant and add a lovely range of greens to the color palette.
Drought-resistant sedum and certain species of phlox offer ground cover, variegated hosta makes a shady garden feel lush, and ornamental grasses and feathery yarrow contribute a prairie wildflower feel to a sunny expanse.
I use a 30/40/30 rule for bulbs, summer flowers, and heartier fall blooms so that there is something blooming early spring until first frost.
There are plenty of resources devoted to achieving the perfect balance and variety in your perennial garden and some people love the planning of a garden as much as the planting of one but this girl is not one of them. I enjoy a Saturday morning visit to the garden center where I survey the seasonal plantings, get a quick word of advice from a staff-member, then pick 3 or 4 pretty plants that look nice together. After a quick internet search the gloves go on and the fun begins.