Sunday, June 26, 2022
June 26, 2022

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Gardening with Allen: Perennials deliver color from spring to fall

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Moonbean coreopsis (Allen Wilson)
Moonbean coreopsis (Allen Wilson) Photo Gallery

I created a long bed for flowers that is 6 feet wide I would like to plant mostly perennial flowers. Could you give me suggestions of flower varieties so I can have color from spring through fall?

If this were my bed, the first thing I would do is to add a generous amount of compost or bark dust and some lime and mix it into the soil with a tiller or spade. Your flowers will grow so much better for you if you give them some good soil conditions before you even begin planting. You can add as much as 3 inches of mulch and 5 pounds of lime per 100 square feet. The lime reduces the acidity of our native soils.

Your planting will be more visually attractive if you plant multiple plants of the varieties you choose rather than just planting one plant of each. You may even want to repeat varieties along the bed. You will have two or three layers, depending on how wide the plants grow.

Your earliest color will come from spring-blooming bulbs planted in the fall. After bulbs, the earliest perennials are low-growing, ground-cover types like gold alyssum, white candytuft, and rock cress and false rock cress which come in white, pink, blue and purple shades. These four flowers retain their leaves in the winter, which is an added advantage. My favorite ground cover perennial is lamium or spotted nettle, which not only blooms early but continues to produce flowers all summer. Lamium comes in white, crimson, lavender and pink.

Late spring bloomers include creeping phlox, which blooms white, pink, blue and rose red; doronicum, a tall yellow daisy; and spike-flowered lupine and penstemon. Lupine and penstemon come in multiple shades.

My favorite summer bloomers are three varieties that bloom continuously until fall. Moonbeam coreopsis has small yellow daisy flowers. Rozeanne is a sky blue geranium. Peruvian lily (alstroemeria) comes in a wide range of colors.

My favorite late summer to fall blooming perennials are coneflower, coreopsis, Russian sage, evening primrose, black-eyed Susan, Helen’s flower and sea holly. Coneflower comes in different heights and shades of purple through red and pink. Coreopsis comes in yellow and orange shades. Russian sage is lavender. Evening primrose and black-eyed Susan are yellow. Helen’s flower or helenium comes in shades of yellow, gold, orange and red. Sea holly flowers are bright blue. The ornamental grasses reach their peak in late summer and fall.

Perennial asters in pink, blue and lavender shades are my favorite fall blooming flowers. They bloom later and are more reliably hardy than chrysanthemums.

You will find a wide range of perennial flowers at local full-service nurseries and garden stores.

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