By Jay Ladell
If you dream about having flowers blooming in your garden from spring to fall, you will be surprised to know how simple it is to have a colourful showpiece garden. The secret is to select easy to grow perennials.
Say the words pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) and spring comes to mind. Named to coincide with Easter – Pâques in French – or Passover, it flowers in early spring in Ottawa. Able to withstand frosty nights and icy soil, the bell-shaped, pastel blossoms appear soon after their fuzzy stems pop up.
Flowering later in spring is the dazzling purple sensation allium (Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’). Blossoming from May to June, this flowering onion adds height to your garden when other plants, such as the hostas, have not yet completely filled out. Technically a bulb not a perennial, it reminds me of a balloon on a stick. The 15-centimetre wide puffballs of violet-purple florets appear at the top of the tall, 60-90 cm stems.
Carnations and garden pinks are plants that produces perky, pink, red or white spring flowers. These long-bloomers are sun loving, low growing and look spectacular when tucked amongst rocks. Try these garden pinks such as the maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoides), cheddar pinks (D. gratianopolitanus) and carnations (D. caryophyllus).
Peonies (Paeonia) bloom in late spring and early summer in shades ranging from red to white or yellow. Some peonies delight with scents ranging from rose to a light citrus. Look for varieties listed as having stiff stems, like the Itoh hybrids, so that you don’t have to support them with rings and stakes.
In early summer, English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) features spikes of aromatic flowers. Plant them on walkways or near your doors so their fragrance can be enjoyed.
Here are four perennials with really long blooming times. The pincushion flower, (Scabiosa columbaria) is named for its pale, domed centre cushion with protruding stamens that resemble pins in a pincushion. It produces profuse amounts of lavender-blue petals from early spring until late fall.
Many varieties of daylily also bloom for long periods from mid-to-late summer. Beyond the traditional brilliant oranges and yellows, daylilies come in every colour from deep wine-red to creamy white. Go out on a limb with the purple d’oro daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Purple D’Oro’) and enjoy their near endless summer flowers.
The aptly named sunny border speedwell (Veronica ‘Sunny Border’), has spikes of deep violet-blue that are in blossom for weeks. Another border plant genus is Astilbe with many varieties admired for their long-blooming, plume-like flowers. Plant them to create permanent beds under the tree canopy in moist, shaded areas.
Later into the summer we will find coneflower (Echinacea) and sea holly (Eryngium) in a full sun garden. Both grow up to a metre in height, Echinacea blooms range from yellow to magenta, and Eryngium produce a beautiful spiky lavender-blue flower head. I also highly recommend the pink or orange-flowered butterfly weed (Asclepias incarnata or A. tuberosa) which as the name suggests, attract butterflies.
For early fall bloomers, I recommend the trailing stonecrop (sedum sieboldii) for bright pink, star-shaped, flower clusters. Another early-fall plant is bugbane (Cimicifuga simplex) with pink or white flowers decorating its long spikes.
Here are three great autumn perennials: The chocolate boneset (Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’) is named for their dark brown leaves which turn green in the fall when the fuzzy white flower clusters bloom. The New England and New York aster (Aster novae-angliae) and A. novi-belgii cultivars) have deep purple or rose petals with yellow disc florets at the centre. Stonecrop (Sedum spectable cultivars) has huge, mauve, flower heads.
Your flowering garden will delight you with three-seasons full of anticipation and glory. From the time that you see the first blossom emerge through the melting snow until the autumn frost, your garden will be filled with colour and beauty.
Article originally published in the O.S.C.A.R. newspaper