Thank you for allowing Landscape Designs, Inc. the pleasure of introducing you to the enchanting world of
perennials. A perennial garden with or without diversity, is
a constantly changing scene of textures, colors, forms and moods. A
nicely designed garden accounts for the subtlety of Pine‑Leafed Penstemon,
the macro‑leaf of a Blue Amethyst Eryngium,
the new crosiers of Berry‑Bladder Fern, the tufts of new needles
on a `Cole's' Canadian Hemlock, the lepidopterous flower of a `Tunkhannock'
Siberian Iris, the complex bloom of a Cypripedium Orchid,
the curious flower of a `Beidemeier' Columbine or the favorite blossom
of ` Silver Princess' Shasta Daisies.
The enjoyment of a garden is compelling you to Come and See
-- Come and See on a daily basis what is forming and manifesting itself
-- seemingly only for your pleasure. Mom‑Nature invites you to
take the time to smell the Autumn Sweet Clematis, to pick a bouquet
of sunshine, to recline in the coolness of SPRING and savor a burst
of fragrant Danford Iris. This constant change is what makes
a garden spring to life. Yes, perennials do not perpetually bloom like
their cousins the `Crazy Quilt' Impatients. Annuals do deserve
a place in your garden for Mom‑Nature is fully supplied with
many types of annuals, biennials and perennials. It would be sad if
life didn't have this completeness.
WHAT ARE PERENNIALS?
of the World's plants are divided into the following categories:
Annual ‑‑ Plants that germinate, grow, flower, seed, & die
in one growing season. Annuals usually live one year. E.g., Marigolds,
Ragweed, Crabgrass, Soybeans.
Biennial ‑‑ Plants
that germinate and grow in the first season, flower, seed and die
in the second season. Biennials generally live two years. E.g.,
Canterbury Bells, Foxglove, Queen Ann's Lace, Mulleins, Beets,
Carrots, Money Plant.
Perennial ‑ Plants
that germinate, grow and occasionally flower the first season but
usually in the second plus year. Perennials may require many years
to reach maturity. Trillium may require five to seven years
before flowering from a seed. After flowering, perennials generally
do not die but live indefinitely, usually three or more years. E.g.
Hosta, Sedum, Strawberry, Rhubarb, Blue Grass, Peony,
Iris, Daylily, Chives, Astilbe.
TYPES OF PERENNIALS
HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS wither
completely to the ground after their growing season. This die back may
occur anytime during the growing season and does not necessarily suggest
the plant's death. Bleeding Hearts, Oriental Poppies, Bloodroot and
Virginia Blue Bells usually die back during July. Root-stock perennials
are usually herbaceous. Daffodils, True Lilies, Trillium and
Liatris die completely to the ground but the root-stocks remain
alive to bloom the following season. Iris rhizomes, Surprise
Lily bulbs, Crocus corms and Butterfly Flower tubers are root-stocks.
EVERGREEN PERENNIALS such
as, Dianthus, Coral Bells, and Pachysandra hold their foliage
throughout the Winter months, but are commonly called herbaceous perennials.
These perennials typically do not have woody stems.
WOODY PERENNIALS have persistent
woody stems above the ground all year. Tree peony, bittersweet, roses,
trees and shrubs are examples of woody perennials. Pines, spruce, yew,
hemlock, blue holly, boxwood, and arborvitae are evergreen woody perennials.
CARING FOR YOUR PERENNIALS
Surprisingly, many perennials require
very little care. The following discussions should aid you in the general
care and maintenance of your gardens. A newly planted perennial garden
requires more care then a fully matured garden. During the first three
to five years of your perennial garden's establishment, the quality
of care will be reflected in the gardens' maturity, brilliance, enjoyment
Spring. A light covering of mulch remains
on the garden but the Winter Aconite and `Snow Bunting' Crocus, are
poking through. One is driven to give them air and sunlight but remember
April 10 might be too far away. The nights still get very cool and the
white stuff can still build up into huge pillows. About mid-April, I
trust our mindless weather to quiet down and give your plants a chance
to burst forth. Generally, clean up the garden in MID- APRIL.
Between April 15 and May 1, Winter's
dormancy is broken and perennials are using the stored nutrients in
their roots and bulbs. The energy required to produce leaves, stems
and blossoms is manufactured by photosynthesis. To do this, your plants
require a complete nutrient fertilizer. We may know plants need
Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, but did you know they also require
Sulfur for aromatics, Iron for high energy transfers and Copper for
I recommend and offer my custom blended REMKE granulated fertilizer. My 8‑9 month formulation supplies 3 primary
and 6 secondary nutrients in a readily available form. Broadcast applications
done once per year, preferably in late Autumn, easily fertilize your
garden. Early March applications may be done as soon as the soil thaws.
When installing perennials, bulbs or annuals, broadcast REMKE® at one tablespoon around each
plant or 1 pound (2 cupfuls) per 100 square foot (10 feet by 10 feet)
area. This ensures sturdy growth and fine results. REMKE® is a time and temperature release
fertilizer. Fertilizer is released very slowly at cooler temperatures.
As the soil’s temperature and moisture rises fertilizers are
released more rapidly -- coinciding with plant growth. Time release
means no more mixing and colored fingers every ten days. This formulation
means no more run off due to rain washing the nutrients away and leaching
the fertilizer from the plant's roots. Some plants require special feeding.
These included: Rhododendron, Azalea, Holly, Magnolia,
Halesia, Orchids, Spruce, Boxwood, Pachysandra and Vinca.
These plants enjoy acidic soils. Annual feedings with my sucrated FEMAX
tablets supply the required Iron, Manganese, Zinc and Sulfur. Easily
dibbled into the ground at the drip zone, they provide vital nutrients
and soil conditioning for optimal growth.
When installing new perennials,
it's imperative to provide adequate moisture to ensure against
excessive wilt. (Some wilting during midday is tolerated.) Excessive
wilt checks their development and stunts future growth. Watering
may be accomplished by either of two methods, an oscillating fan
sprinkler or a watering wand with a water breaker. A recent ORGANIC
GARDENING article compared and evaluated many different brands
and types of sprinklers as to the quality of coverage. The oscillating
types were consistently better then most other types. My best recommendation
would be the GARDENA®
line of oscillating sprinklers. The DRAMM® watering wand with a
water breaker allows for the full volume application of water with
a gentle low pressure flow.
While it's impossible to state
how long a fan sprinkler should be kept running to water a given
area, I can tell you how to measure it. I cannot say how long to
water due to variable water pressures, hose diameters, brand of
sprinklers and soil types. These variables impact on the time required
to supply the necessary water. In the area to be watered, strategically
locate open coffee or similarly shape cans or tins. The cans act
as inexpensive rain gauges. Sprinkle for an hour and then measure
the depth of the water in the tins. When ½ to 1" of
water has been applied, you can calculate how much time is required
to sprinkle an area to supply it with a given amount of water.
Generally, newly installed plants
require approximately ½" of water every three days.
If you use a wand, apply water directly around the base of each
of the newly installed plants saturating the soil, about 15 to
30 second per plant. Once the plants are established, in 2-3 weeks,
water should be applied only when necessary. Watering in the morning,
so the foliage can dry before nightfall, aids in the reduction
of molds and mildews.
The above watering program assumes
some type of mulch; such as shredded or chipped bark mulch has
been applied to the garden. Generally a well-established perennial
garden requires no more than 1" of water per week applied in 1/2"
increments. Any natural precipitation over 2/10" should be considered
when calculating the amount of supplemental watering. Avoid soggy soils.
Woody ornamentals and lawns should be watered according to our respective
>Spring rains generally provide
very adequate moisture, but spring droughts do occur. Watering your
`Red Riding Hood' Tulips, `Mount Hood' Daffodils and Double Flowering
Bloodroot may be required. This is the exception to the rule. Watering
the perennial garden in March was required during the Spring of 1987,
1988 and 1996. During the first Winter, I strongly recommend the soil
freeze with adequate moisture to prevent winter dehydration of the root
stocks. Usually one does not need to concern yourself with Autumn moisture, as it is generally adequate. Establishing perennials with an in-ground
automatic irrigation system is not recommended and may void certain
guarantees. Please call me for further information.
garden cultivation should consider the following.
1) SOIL MOISTURE. Tilling the soil, usually cause
a rapid decline in moisture, often decreasing the moisture available
to your plants.
2) SOIL TEMPERATURE. Cultivating and allowing the
soil to dry generally results in an increased soil temperature. This
may or may not be beneficial depending upon the air temperature, exposure
3) HUMUS CONTENT. When humus is exposed
to sunlight, water and/or wind (air), it is eroded from the soil. Many
other natural factors can also cause soil humus decline.
4) ROOT DAMAGE. The fine feeder roots of plants
are easily damaged by just walking on the soil let alone a sharp spade.
5) STUNTING. With any of the above, alone
or in any combination wilting often occurs causing a reduction in stems,
leaves, flowers and fruits.
6) COMPACTION. Walking, machinery and pets
often squeeze the air out of the soil causing the plant’s
roots to suffocate along with the soil's organic life.
7) WEED SEEDS. When opening-up a soil, we often
expose viable weed seeds that have been around for a long time, some
as long as 20 or more years.
8) BIO‑MASS DISRUPTION. A pinch of soil may contain a
billion organisms that are tied to each other in quite a delicate balance.
Changing the soil's environment rapidly causes changes in its biomass.
9) BOTTOM SOIL. Micro-fine structured clays usually
make up deeper soils. Heavy clay soils provide a difficult medium for
plants, but it can be modified. Clay plus humus plus coarse sand plus
time equals an enrich soil. To modify a clay soil, add coarse sand (non-limestone
sand), gypsum and large annual quantities of humus and
-- time. A Penn. State study demonstrated
that soils annually enriched with 3" of LEAVES increased production
up to 150%. Pile shredded leaves on the garden in November for the perfect
Winter mulch ‑‑ 2 to 4" deep. Lightly mulch around
those plants that have evergreen foliage throughout the Winter. These
include Creeping phlox -- Phlox subulata, Woodland phlox -- P. stolonifera
(very sensitive to mulch cover), Pulmonaira longifolia, Heuchera, Tiarella,
Geranium `Ballerina’, Campanula, Paxistima, Euonymus fortunie,
Asarum europaeum and many others.
In Spring, when we clean up the garden, if less then 1‑2"
of leaves remains, don't remove them for they will disintegrate by the
Autumn. If more than 2" remain on the garden, remove the excess
and compost or remove from on top of the plants and use as Summer mulch.
I often `frost the garden’ debris with shredded bark mulch. A
½” layer of mulch covers all the debris, enhancing the
10) DECISION. I will let that up to you. Each, of the above,
has been a study by itself.
Summer The `Peeping Tom' Daffodils and the `Aladdin' Tulips have finished
blooming and the seed pods have formed. Removal of these pods allows
the leaves to store more energy for next year's blooms. If there are
no pods, it is unnecessary to remove anything. Eight weeks after blooming,
remove the foliage by CUTTING it off at ground level. It is unnecessary
to wait until it has completely turned brown. When many perennials are
finished blooming, removal of the spent flower heads generally extends,
and occasionally allows for additional blooming. In some plants, such
as Garden Phlox, removal of the seed heads is highly recommended
as the seed reverts to the wild forms, gradually crowding out the prized
<![if !supportEmptyParas]>Many different options exist for
summer soil mulches. The most commonly available mulch is leaves, as
Other mulches include:
3‑4 Mo. "0" ++
Dk. Brown. Coarse
+ = Positive
- = Negative
o = None
COLOR Average color after aging.
TEXT. The texture as compared to soil.
LIFE In years. How long does it last before breaking down and require
COST Relative cost to buy as compared to each other.
BIO. A relative measurement about which mulch proliferates positive
NUTR. A relative scale on how the mulch affects the soil. Robs (‑‑)
The mulch actually causes a reduction in the nutrient or food value
of the soil.
WATER How does water flow through the mulch. High ‑‑ Water
flows through very rapidly, Float ‑‑ Mulch floats.
MAIN How much maintenance is required is on a relative scale. Ave.
1 ‑‑‑‑ Should be covered otherwise the
sunlight will disintegrate.
2 ‑‑‑‑ POLYPROPYLENE fabrics, if covered
by a mulch, last 15+ years. Many types are available.
3 ‑‑‑‑ Oak, Hemlock, Cedar and Cypress.
(No Butternut, Walnut, Hickory or Boxelder.)
4 ‑‑‑‑ Conifer, such as Pine, Fir, Redwood
5 ‑‑‑‑ Oak, Maple, and elm. (No Butternut,
Walnut, Hickory or Boxelder.)
Summer soil mulches should accomplish several things:
1) Reduce weeding, watering and general maintenance.
2) Add quality humus to the soil and thereby
3) Allow quality plant growth without robbing
the soil and plants of nutrients.
4) Remain in place without readily washing
and/or blowing away.
5) Last 1‑3 years before needing to
6) Allow gradual heating and cooling of the
7) Allow for air, water and nutrient percolation.
8) Its color and texture accents your home,
environment and plants.
9) Discourages or doesn’t encourage
harmful pest habitat.
10) Cost should be manageable.
Considering the above, 2‑3" of
crushed white marble (pure limestone) gravel would be the worst.
Any of the organic mulches would be far superior. My favorite shredded
BARK mulches are oak, hemlock, cedar, pine and other hardwood trees.
Avoid mulches with high wood content.
Eyes' Chrysanthemums and `Melba' Asters are in full flower and contrast
beautifully with the deep blue blossoms of Ceratostigma. Leaves
are being painted and the air is crisp. There is very little work to
do in the perennial garden. The leaves are adding up to make their mulch
and the plants are going into dormancy. Do not remove any foliage or
stems unless diseased or creature infected, then compost them. Plant
your `Rip Van Winkle' Narcissus and your Autumn Blooming Crocus. Try
not to disturb the existing perennials. If annuals have been added to
the garden, their dead leaves and stems provide a good Winter mulch
when left in place. Autumn is a great time for fertilization. (See FERTILIZATION).
Winter A time to cover the garden with
any necessary additional Winter mulch. Mulch should be applied
to the garden usually only during the first Winter. Do not mulch
until the soil has frozen 2"‑4" and the plants
are dormant. Evergreen boughs work wonderfully for many roses,
tree peonies, Rhododendron, hollies, and tender Mahonia. Teepee
the boughs around each plant and secure them in place. This is
done right around the Holidays when free evergreen boughs are plentiful.
The humus and acid in the needles aids in keeping the soil acidic.
Mulch experiments during the winter
of `88‑`89‑`90 have been very interesting. Covering
many different perennials with POLYPROPYLENE FABRICS has resulted
in minimal Winter damage, rapid Spring growth and very easy cleanup.
Wonderful results have been had on Ajuga, Ivy, Euonymus, Thymus,
and Dianthus. Test coverings on Hedera ‑ English
Ivy, resulted in green and flourishing Spring leaves while those exposed
to the vagaries of Winter were mostly dead. I recommend trying this
technique, as the rewards have been great in rock and perennial gardens.
Winter provides us with the time
to reflect on the previous year's garden and its development. Perennial
gardens take time to mature to their true beauty. It is our lack
of patience that pushes Nature to conform to our desires. She generally
rebukes those of us who push too hard. A perennial garden requires
YEARS to realize its full potential. Plants take time to grow, just
like children. Care is required at about ½ hour per 500 feet²
per week during the first 3‑5 years. Once established, care commonly
drops to 10 minutes per week per 500 feet². Generally perennials
require less time to maintain than a lawn and perennials reward you
with many things a lawn cannot.
Since guarantees do not cover
plant death and damages brought on by rodents & other animals,
you should take precautions to protect the plants. Rabbits, deer,
chipmunks, squirrels and mice are the worse offenders. Since we
have wiped out most of their natural predators, these animals can
and often do raise tremendous havoc in the garden. If your garden
is anything like mine, I place chicken wire, rabbit fencing and/or
hardware cloth around the entire garden or individual plants. Stake
and secure the fencing to prevent collapse during our prolonged
winter. A little effort in the Autumn prevents heartbreak in Spring.
Plant as soon as possible for
best results. If unable to plant immediately, store them in a light
shady cool location and water regularly. Position the plants in
the pattern as on the plan or sketch before attempting to plant
them. It is easier to move them while still in pots. Keep in mind
that a plan is not set in concrete and you should allow for some
flexibility when positioning them. Try to keep to the plan and
avoid planting them too close. Dig a hole 2‑3" larger, overall, than the container the plant
arrived in. Loosen the soil creating a crumbly consistency. Reposition
and pack some of the crumbled soil back into the hole positioning the
plant's crown or growing point at the same level as the surrounding
soil. Position the plant in the center of the hole, without its container
and firmly pack the soil around the new plant with a blunt stick or
your fingers. Create a shallow depression with a raised soil edge around
the rim of the hole to hold water. Mulch the soil to keep it cool and
moist. Water freely to saturate the soil. Water daily for the first
two weeks if the plants were installed bareroot. Avoid soggy soils.
Avoid WILTING. If wilt occurs, it may be necessary to prune or pinch
back the plant if watering doesn't revive the foliage. If it has rained
more than ½", additional watering MAY not be necessary.
WHEN TO PLANT PERENNIALS
Perennials may be planted almost
anytime the soil is workable. This means anytime from March through
November 15. My favorite time is in September for little additional
care needs to be given to the plants, Mom‑Nature does the
watering and the mulch falls out of the trees. The next best time
would be April and May for Spring is generally cool and moist.
Be aware, Summer in Wisconsin comes quickly and hot. Plant stress
is often severe. Water freely! I have had excellent results planting
as late as November 25 in open production fields in Western Wisconsin.
Most perennials are quite hardy when properly planted and grown.
Autumn planting will surprise you with wonderful results in the
BARE ROOT VS. CONTAINER GROWN
Bareroot perennials require IMMEDIATE
care and MUST BE PLANTED WITHOUT DELAY. Soak the entire plant in
a container of room temperature, non‑artificially softened water, for about
2 hours. After soaking, position them in trays with a little wet humus
or compost on the bottom and cover their roots with some additional
wet humus. Bareroot perennials are best planted in the Autumn or the
Early Spring. Dibble or dig a small hole and position all of the plant's
roots into the hole. Fill the hole with soil, maintaining the plant's
crown at the appropriate depth. Burying the crown generally results
in rotting. Call me if you are not sure of the planting depth. FIRMLY
press the soil around the roots and the base of the crown. Position
a quality mulch around the plant and water well. Keep the area moist,
but not soggy, until new growth is noticed. Many bareroot plants suffer
transplanting shock before regaining good growth. Be patient, 2‑4
weeks may be required for signs of growth. Container grown perennials
allow installation anytime from March through Mid-November. Planting
in the heat of Summer is not really any different then at any other
time except for two things. Water, water, water and prune back slightly
by removing any blossoms and excess growth. Your plants will respond
admirably. When watering plants, it is imperative that normal tap water
is used and not artificially softened water. Water softening salts
are detrimental, if not fatal, to plants. Watering with artificially
softened water usually voids all guarantees.
This is where much confusion arises
in the perennial garden. An article in AMERICAN HORTICULTURIST noted
this quite nicely. Many plants can be successfully moved if done properly.
Just keep a few rules in mind. Avoid movement, 1) when in full flower;
2) during very active growth; 3) more than twice within a month and
4) during very hot and droughty conditions. If we do elect to move during
these times, we will need to severely prune.
Another common misunderstanding
is that all perennials need dividing to keep them healthy. Yes -- some
do -- but these are a minority. Peony, daylily, Hosta, pinks, daffodils,
Astilbe, Siberian Iris, bleeding heart's, Eulalia Grass, Veronica, etc.,
do not require division to keep them healthy. Reasons perennial plants
1) Soil levels have continued to go down and the perennials
are now sitting upon little mounds. Add ½‑1" of
top soil to the garden annually if you cultivate and don't use
mulch. The soil is going to erode, leaving your plants high and
dry. This is stress.
2) Nutrient levels in the soil have reached an all time
low and need to be replenished.
3) Plants are planted much too close. This does not
allow for the plants to develop and breath. Open up the garden and try
to reduce its density. As difficult as it may seem, throw out the excess
or give them away.
4) Diseases were not checked in time and allowed to
spread. Many disease resistant cultivars are available. Plant resistant
cultivars if your garden is prone to diseases. Don't plant Delphiniums
in heavy wet soils -- black stem will surely result.
5) Plants move -- over time they die on one side and
develop more vigorously on the other. When the soil is easily worked,
trowel out the weak centers, edges or unwanted sprouts. A carefully
applied herbicide, with a brush, onto the unwanted sprouts, can also
make maintenance easier. Be CAREFUL and follow instructions.
Always remove undesirable seedlings
and weeds from the garden. Summer mulches wonderfully help reduce weeding. Weeds compete for
moisture, nutrient, space, make the garden appear unkempt and harbor
many diseases and pests. Try to remove weeds when they are small and
manageable. Large weeds can be easily cut off slightly below the ground
level and heavily mulched to prevent resprouting. I recommend and offer
PENDULUM®, a pre-emergent that prevents
the germination of most grasses, purslane, woodsorrel (Oxalis), chickweed,
knotweed, lambsquarter, pigweed, rocket, speedwell, spurge, velvetleaf
and henbit. Usually applied during March, PENDULUM® provides excellent annual weed
control. PENDULUM® lasts up to 6 months, gradually bio-decaying into non-toxic elements.
Worms, soil bacteria and other organisms, existing growing plants, birds,
mammals, insects are not affected by PENDULUM®. PENDULUM® is easily applied by you or by
Landscape Designs, Inc. For
further information, please contact us. When removing the weeds from
your garden, you are also removing nutrients, water and above all, small
quantities of soil. These nutrients and soils must be replaced. Compost
your weeds so their humus, nutrients and soils can be returned to the
Hardiness is a plant's capacity
to adapt to an environment. These conditions and stresses include weather,
soil, moisture regimes, nutrient levels, pH (acidity or alkalinity of
the growing medium) and sunlight. In planning a perennial garden, we
need to keep in mind which plants are tolerant of what stresses. Dianthus is
intolerant of wet clay soils, as Marsh Marigolds are intolerant of
dry sandy soils. Many plants listed as hardy in USDA Zones 3‑5
are generally considered suited to our area. Use plants recommended
for Zones 3‑4 if the environment is open and harsh. Zone 6 plants
are often hardy if planted in protected areas and properly mulched.
Location, location, location -- swamp loving plants are not hardy in
Many plants, including very common
ones, may cause physical intoxication or poisoning. Since reaction to
many of these intoxicants or poisons is often specific to individuals,
Landscape Designs, Inc. cannot
be held liable for injury, potential or realized, due to the contact
or ingestion of any designated plant. Please contact THE POISON CONTROL
CENTER or me for further information.
If all of this sounds like a lot
of work, keep in mind that the flowers we raise in our gardens
Mother Nature grows elsewhere. She has no trouble raising the rarest
Orchids or swamp loving Cattails. Only when we desire to push nature
into realms that are very different from their native environments
does She become upset. There are over 100,000 species and cultivars
of plants hardy to our area. I realize that not all of them are
suitable to your particular garden’s environment. I am confident a perennial garden can be
developed and raised in almost any environment. Just look through the
pages of many gardening magazines to view the natural gardens of the
world. Following the above recommendations, I firmly believe that the
rewards can be great and the labor -- therapeutic. After all ‑‑ plants
are THE most common form of life on this planet we call EARTH.
| Gardens For All
|| Fine Gardening
| The Garden (RHS)
WYMAN'S GARDENING ENCY. Donald Wyman 1977 FLOWERS `A Guide for Your Garden' Pizzetti and Cocker 1968
ENCY. OF GARDEN PLANTS Linda Fox ed. 1978 THE COMPLETE SHADE GARDENER George Schenk 1984
HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS Giles, Keith and Saupe 1980 HERBACEOUS ORNAMENTAL PLANTS
Dr. Steven Still
THE NATURAL SHADE GARDEN Ken Druse 1992 HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS Allan M. Armitage 1997 2nd edition
PERENNIALS FOR AMER. GARDENS R. Clausen & N. Ekstrom 1989
using any book or magazine, please remember that very few books were
ever written on PERENNIAL GARDENING IN THE MIDWEST. Keep this
in mind, for many books will promise things that cannot exist in our
(All underlined plant names are scientific genera.)
You and Happy Gardening!
further information please contact Landscape Designs, Inc.
Written by Steve Lesch, President,
Landscape Designs, Inc.