Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Top Ten Perrennial Flowers

A list like this is always controversial and is de facto based on personal prejudice, but I have tried here to include plants that I think the novice could be fairly safe with and that are suited to most soil types. Despite the photograph here of the lovely Delphinium I have not included it as they can be very difficult for the beginner.

Apologies to our international readers if some of these are not suitable or available, but I have focused here on the British garden and climate. Any suggestions for other regions welcomed.

All the plants here should do well in a mixed herbaceous bed and are intended to be enjoyed in their variety. This does not mean they will all automatically go together and you should consider other factors such as available space, your chosen colour scheme and the sight lines from your chosen vantage point.

1. Agapanthus. These also work well in containers and offer up a profusion of bluebell-like blue or white flowers at the end of long elegant stems. They have plentiful foliage and can give accent colour or height to a border.

2. Phlox. This is delightful in a country garden setting. I used to grow them in a very large garden and they gave an abundant supply of cut flowers and a vibrant pink splash of colour to the garden, with their big fat blooms. Apparently they enjoy a little shade, although in my garden they managed well in the full glare of sunshine. Phlox can be propagated by taking root cuttings in winter.

3. Red hot poker. This is a sentimental choice, as when I was a small child I was fascinated by their name, their flamboyant red colour and defiant stature, rising above the smaller plants of the border so I chose them as my favourite in our small Liverpool garden. Red hot poker is actually a better choice for a bigger garden as it can act as a wonderful accent in a bed of more muted tones and shapes. They should be planted in spring rather than autumn.

4. Geranium - I mean here the true geranium or cranesbill, not the bedding plant pelargonium which seems to have run away with the name. These are very easy to grow, but can prove invasive so you may need to split them up and share them with your friends if they get too large or spread too far. They are great for planting under trees and are very tolerant. If you dead-head the old flowers they will keep on flowering for ages.

5. Salvia. The salvia or sage is a great addition to a herbaceous scheme, giving spiky blue spears of flowers and lots of foliage. Not to be confused with the red salvia bedding plant so beloved of seaside formal gardens or hanging baskets.

6. Achillea or yarrow. I'm not a big fan of yellow flowers myself, but the achillea is a really good contender for the list if you are looking for a very tall, sturdy plant that is easy to grow and offers up vibrant gold plates of colour and interesting silvery foliage.

7. Rudbeckia or to give this member of the daisy family its irresitable other name, Black-eyed Susan, is another golden flower, this time with a dark centre. This or the Echinacea daisy can give some vibrant colour to a large herbaceous border and is very easy to grow.

8. Poppy. These are spectacular when in bloom, adding a vibrant splash to any border. The problem is when the flowering is over they can look a mess so it's best to site them where their foliage can be hidden by other plants after they have had their day as it would be a shame to forego the loveliness they offer when in bloom.

9. Lupin. I love this old fashioned country garden flower, which can also be grown from seed. As well as offering vibrant spires of colour it has a very distinctive and attractive leaf. The lupin is a legume and was apparently originally brought to Britain by the Romans. Lupins come in a variety of heights and colours including vivid pinks and blues so can be accommodated in most border schemes.

10. Aster. The aster comes in a range of heights from dwarf varieties to towering Michaelmas daisies that can be over 6 feet tall, so be careful to check which variety you have before planting. Asters provide plentiful blooms and lots of colour.

(Clare F)

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