THIS WEEK'S TIP FROM GARDEN GURU SUE BOTH

Ferennial Pleasures

Every gardener wants their flower bed to consistently be in pristine condition. That’s why there is always a tough decision to make between planting seasonal or perennial flowers every year. A perennial plant or flower is simply a plant that lives more than two years. 

Most seasoned gardeners prefer the perennials over the annuals. These beautiful plants tend to bloom for just a short time a season, up to three weeks, but maintain their greenery throughout the season.

The super-power in perennials is their root system.  Perennials use their first growing season to establish a strong root system, before their first winter.  With enough water, about an inch a week, proper weeding and fertilizing, the roots will grow deep. The second growing season a gardener will see the benefits of their perennial care as the plants bloom and flourish.

With proper care, a well-rooted perennial will last several seasons.  These perennials have some wonderful advantages over the annuals in the garden.

 

Perennials require less yearly maintenance.  Gardeners can save money, energy and time by not having to clear out flower beds and replanting each year. Also, the beds will not require annual composting and mulching.

Because they remain in the soil, and the soil is not disturbed by pulling and replanting each year, the root systems of the perennials improve the structure of the soil. The ground is aerated and channelled by the roots, allowing water to travel through the soil more efficiently. This benefits the perennials and other plants that are living in the area to get the water and oxygen they need to flourish.

The deeper root system of the perennials in a garden will benefit other plants nearby by bringing water and nutrients up to the top of the soil for those plants with a shallow root.  Nutrients, such as nitrogen, are drawn to the surface by the roots of perennials.  Water also is drawn up.  This helps the other vegetation thrive while enriching the soil and making is less susceptible to disease and erosion.

 

The presence of hardy perennials in a flower bed provides ground cover, preserving soil moisture.  Even as they die back in the colder months, these plants usually keep their foliage, covering the soil and protecting it from the sun.

Many perennials are easy to propagate by dividing and replanting to produce new plants. While most perennials last a long time, they do not last forever.  This system of digging up the root clump, splitting and replanting will ensure a long-lasting garden.

 

One of the most popular reasons that gardeners prefer perennials is the variety. Below is a list of some of my favourite summer perennials:

 

  • Gaura or Butterfly Bush with delicate pink or white clusters of flowers will provide you with some height in your garden while giving you a splash of colour throughout summer.
  • Felicia or African Daisy make splendid borders and can tolerate harsh and hot conditions.
  • Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ is an indigenous bush that will highlight your shady garden areas with their spur like purple flowers.
  • Argeranthemum or Bush Daisies are free flowering and are available in many colours.
  • Salvia or flowering Sage is another hit for the sunny garden and is a great filler in those empty patches of the garden.
  • Erigeron karvinskianus or Mexican daisies with their feathery foliage will adorn your sunny borders with their abundance of white flowers.
  • Zanthedeschia or Arum lilies is the indigenous star of the shady garden. Tall white flowers make great cut flowers as well.
  • Agapanthus or Nile lilies are available in many forms from dwarf to tall with umbels of flowers in colours ranging from white to very dark purple.
  • Dietes or Wild Irises are great for mass plantings in both sunny and shady areas of your garden
  • Calibrachoa is a perennial petunia with clusters of bell shaped flowers in a myriad of colours. They are ideal for pots and hanging baskets.

 

With a bit of planning, it is possible to have a garden that always has different varieties blooming.

Annuals tend to all bloom at the same time of the season, while the perennials can be planned to offer a gardener’s reward throughout the growing season. Annuals have their place in the gardener’s garden but for long-lasting beauty, benefits to the soil and surrounding plant-life, a perennial garden with blooms throughout the season is a gardener’s prize.

Our free online workshops will resume again on 14 January 2022. Watch these pages for the links.

If you have any gardening questions, feel free to contact your friendly Garden Guru – Sue Both at: sueb@gardenhop.co.za