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News / Life / Clark County Life

Gardening with Allen: Overlap blooms with perennials

By Allen Wilson, Columbian freelance writer
Published: June 1, 2024, 6:05am

I would like to start a perennial flower border in an area where I have previously planted annuals. Could you recommend some good varieties of perennial flowers, especially those with a long blooming period?

I would suggest that you expand or create an area for perennial flowers that is at least 4 feet wide. That way you can plant two or more varieties with overlapping blooming periods. You can even have perennial flowers that bloom before you can safely plant annuals. Sometimes I also like to add a border of an annual such as alyssum or lobelia to my perennial flower bed.

In designing a perennial flower bed or border with multiple varieties, don’t make the mistake I have made. I have planted too few plants of too many varieties and ended up with a hodgepodge appearance. Plan to plant three or more plants of each variety. You will need to carefully determine growing heights so you don’t plant something tall in front of a shorter variety.

There are a few perennials with long blooming periods, but only one as long as our best annuals that bloom from the time they are planted until frost. This little gem is Lamium maculatum, with the ugly common name that I never use: spotted nettle. It is a low growing ground cover that does best with partial shade. It has spotted silvery leaves and pink, white or lavender flowers that bloom from earliest spring until frost.

My favorite flowers for earliest bloom before you can even plant annuals are: basket of gold alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis), mountain gold (Alyssum montanum), perennial candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), and rock cress (Arabis and Aubrieta deltoidea). The gold alyssums combine quite nicely with the purple and pink shades of rock cress.

There is a group of long blooming perennials that start to bloom from mid-May to late June and continue for the rest of the season. These include Coreopsis (especially Coreopsis Moonbeam), Gaillardia, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), Coneflower (Echinaceae). Lavender (Lavendula), Evening Primrose (Oenothera). Summer Aster (Erigeron), and Speedwell (Veronica).

Finally, there are the two fall blooming beauties, Chryanthemum and New York and New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae). The fall asters bloom for a longer period and are much more reliably hardy.

Columbian freelance writer