Planning is an essential part of having a perennial garden, otherwise your garden will probably be a jumble of plants. When planning a garden many factors determine the shape of your garden; from which angle you will view your garden; whether the garden will be formal or informal, and the type of planting you want (bed or border). Once the beds and type of garden are decided then it’s time to choose the plants you need. Make sure to consider the light and soil requirements, plant height, time and length of flower, and flower colour. Other factors you may consider are flower fragrance, suitability of plants for fresh cut or dried flowers, and the plants’ form and texture. Once the factors are considered, it’s time to lay out the garden on paper. From this detailed plan you’ll be able to see how the garden will look.

Bed Preparation

This is one of the most important aspects in having a successful perennial garden. First, your bed should be dug to a depth of one foot. Then, you should decide what type of soil you have.

Clay Soil: Ten to 15cm of sand and peat moss should be added so soil can drain properly. Adding gypsum (11kg per 100 sq ft) helps break down the clay. If necessary, garden sulphur can be added to lower the acidity of the soil.

Sandy Soil:  Ten to 15cm of organic material (peatmoss, manure, triple mix) should be added to the soil to hold moisture in the ground. When adding organic material, also add a high-nitrogen fertilizer (fertilizer with a high first number) to help material break down.

Peaty Soil: Add horticultural lime to lower the acidity of the soil if necessary.

All Soil Types: An all purpose fertilizer should be worked into the filled soil. A top dressing of mulch will keep moisture in and weeks out.

Planting: Planting perennials is a relatively simple task, but the importance should not be overlooked. There are 2 stages in which perennials can be planted (dormant and active). Dormant plants are usully planted in the fall and active plants in the spring and summer. Planting itself is simple. With a trowel, dig a hole slightly larger than teh container (remember to remove the container). Once placed inthe hole, fill in the hole and firm the soil around the plant. Plants should then be watered in with a transplant fertilizer.

Perennial Care

Perennials are relatively easy to care for, but they are not maintenance free. Watering, fertilizing and dividing are some of the tasks involved in the care of perennials.

Watering: Newly planted perennials should be watered on a regular basis. More established plants should be watered only when there is a dry spell.

Fertilizing: Should be done 3 times per year (Spring, Summer, Fall) with an all-purpose granular fertilizer. Some perennials need more nutrients during the year and water soluble fertilizer should be applied.

Mulching: Mulching can increase the survival rate of plants through the winter. It also provides a weed barrier as well as keeps moisture in the ground.

Dividing: Dividing perennials is done for 3 reasons: to control size, to rejuvenate plants, to propagate plants. Dividing is done mostly in spring (plants that bloom in summer and fall). If a plant blooms in spring it can be divided after blooming is finished.

* Info on Perennials courtesy of Landscape Ontario.