After the snow is long gone and the daffodils begin to fade I anticipate the appearance of perennials. The pleasure I feel when my gardens begin to wake from their winter slumber is so very satisfying. I think about my clematis, hosta, lamb’s ear, and the list goes on.  Add in the hydrangeas and I’m as giddy as a little girl!

If you live in the Midwest as I do, you may already know one of the wonderful things about perennials is their tolerance for cold. Temperatures can drop below freezing about five months a year in this area, so cold hardy plants are a must.

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Russian Sage greets visitors

From late spring through fall, Russian Sage greets visitors to my home with its lacy mix of gray foliage and small eye-catching bursts of amethyst blooms. Couple this with catmint bundles and I have assured smiles on my guest’s.  If you have this plant you may be asking, “How do I contain its growth and tendency to spread out in late spring or early summer?”.  I encourage upright growth by cutting off the top one-third of the plant. This is very effective and afterward and you should begin to see a more upright growth pattern. If you find it has stopped blooming in the summer months, snip off the top one-half of the stems. I did a hard prune this last winter because my plants were getting quite large for the area where they are planted. Having never done this with this plant before, I am looking forward to seeing what growth returns this spring. Keep your fingers crossed!

As I walk you around, you will find my front and back gardens also

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Coral bells, a perennial garden charmer

contain a charmer called coral bells. I was first introduced to these lovely plants in 1984 by my neighbor who brought over starts when she welcome us to our new neighborhood. Since then, coral bells have been an all time favorite. They come in a variety of foliage colors ranging from a lime green to dark purple, with the tiny blooms of wispy colors appear on slender stalks in late spring through early summer. They are easy to maintain, have a compact mounding growth habit and I can’t seem to find one reason to not include them in your garden! Hummingbirds and butterflies are also very fond of the blooms adding another interesting component.

One of the flowers I wish would linger into the depth of summer has to be the peony. Peonies grace the side of my house and always signal a transition from late spring to early summer and seem to always make their glorious appearance in time for Memorial Day. Peonies come in a bush or tree type, have sturdy robust foliage and are best planted in full sun or partial shade. They are ideal for specimen plants, play nicely with other perennials, roses or clematis, or can be used to create a border along a drive or flower bed. The possibilities are virtually endless. Once established, these plants can last for years, some even up to 50 years.

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Bush type peonies.

These lovely flowers also bring me fond memories of my daughter and her husband’s wedding reception as they were her flower of choice for her bouquet and also graced the reception tables. With a fragrance so subtle and pleasant to the senses, they made a perfect flower for the arrangements on this special occasion. Peonies come in many shades from white to deep pink and some are bi-color. I encourage you to check your growing area and see if you can start to grow peonies in your garden beds this year.

Image of hosta for What Follows the Daffodils?Another wonderful plant occupying shady spots and illuminating dark, lackluster areas are hostas. They have beautiful foliage, come in wonderful colors and textures and produce slender spikes of flowers in white, lavender or pink. They are such reliable additions and being rugged plants are almost impossible to kill, however, you may find they are a treat for deer, snails, and slugs so be prepared for pest control. This year I am going to try them as a container plant as I seen some pretty displays in larger pots and have read they do quite well when coupled with other shade loving annuals. I will let you know how this turns out.

If you are new to gardening, I would suggest a visit to your local library where a vast selection of material is available for the beginner. If you want to try something new, have questions or need ideas I encourage you to visit a local grower or greenhouse in your area. I am all about supporting your local growers first. If you do not have a local greenhouse you can try a garden center or shop various online gardening sites. One of my favorite online sites is White Flower Farm, http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/. They have a vast selection of plants to choose from, offer information about your planting area, plants for shade versus sun and information for other garden types such as vegetable and herbs. Give it a try!

As you can tell, I could write endlessly of my fondness for perennials and will definitely provide more information in future posts as the year goes by. Until then, remember me with flowers in my hair and laughter on my lips. Happy planning and planting!