Which perennials should you start with

smokey28777August 20, 2014

I just retired and am planning a perennial garden. So far I have bought purple coneflowers, Guara, coreopsis, and black eyed susans. What perennials are easy to grow and give a big pop of color for the money?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

where are you smokey ...

you understand.. you are planting nest years garden...right???

how big is you space...

did you prep the garden bed ...

plants are kinda the last thing to consider ...

there are lots of things you could do this fall... which will make it all much more pleasant in the future ...

otherwise.... you can start like i did... buy one of everything you can find.. and grow them on ... split the ones that make you happy.. and get rid of mistakes ... i wanted to try everything ....

what ever you do ... have fun doing it ...


    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:25PM
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babera(5a (Montana))

3 of the 4 you listed were the first ones to come to my mind. They are good choices and they al like pretty much the same growing conditions so they should do well grouped together. another one of my favorites is clematis. I have 3 growing on my fence and trellis's. . . they don't bloom for a real long time but when they do the show is spectacular. (mine is deep purple). I like the reds, purples, oranges and yellows all in a grouping so I would suggest, in my own opinion, purple salvia. A very dependable strong growing plant. The purple looks nice with the other colors you have picked.

I didn't ask the normal questions (sun exposure, your growing zone, soil conditions etc.) but Im sure someone will ask, which is good, then you get the right advice.

Welcome to the forum. Happy retirement (This new found hobby may be more work than your job. But much funner :)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:26PM
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Welcome and congrats on retiring!! Good for you :0)

Yes gardening is hard work, but very rewarding.

A big thing to consider is bloom times....Spring summer fall.

You'll want to try and mix it up so you have something blooming all season.

You can google your zone with each season bloomers and get an idea of the choices you have.

Some of my favorite pops of color for spring are...creeping phlox, rockcress (ground cover) that almost glows and many choices of bulbs.

Late spring are geraniums( many to choose from ), peonies (short bloom time), catmint, coreopsis and salvia as you mentioned.

Summer my favs are Rozanne geranium(blooms all summer!), butterfly bush, and of course phlox:)

Fall...lots of asters! Anemone.

Not knowing your zone it is hard to say, but these do well in my zone with the most color.

Oh and don't forget the "bones"....trees and shrubs. Start with those and build out from them.

Have fun...it's a learning experience that's truly enjoyable!!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:19PM
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Congrats on your retirement. You've found something that will give you rewards year after year: gardening. Some homework would make it a lot more rewarding.

It couldn't hurt to take out a book on perennial gardening from your local library. Perennials for Every Purpose by Larry Hodgson is my personal favorite but The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust is also a popular information source.

Echinacea/coneflower is a long-lived and long-blooming perennial that attracts pollinators. I wouldn't be without it. I grow Gaura as well and have loved its delicate blooms for a number of years. I like it especially growing in front of my hardy hibiscus & balloon flower--I like the textural & color contrasts. All three are blooming now in one of my beds.

I have threadleaf coreopsis as well as C. grandiflora and enjoy both. While many black-eyed Susans are annuals, I find they reseed generously in my garden beds despite a thick layer of mulch. Their long-lived blooms add color during hot, dry July.

What perennials are easy to grow and give a big pop of color for the money?

I wouldn't be without these:

Phlox paniculata/tall garden phlox
Buddleia/butterfly bush
perennial geranium (cranesbill)
Leucanthemum superbum/Shasta daisy
Platycodon/balloon flower
Hellebore/Lenten rose
Baptisia/false indigo
Dicentra/bleeding heart
Siberian iris
Tricyrtis/toad lily

My garden was designed to sustain and attract pollinators--bees, butterflies & birds--so I lean toward perennials that lend themselves to that goal. Your goals may be strictly ornamental. Whatever they are, you'll discover a great deal of information is available--here, on the net & in books--to help you reach them.

Good luck...and have fun!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:52PM
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moistbutwelldrained(7b - North Carolina)

I agree with gardenweed on daylily and Siberian Iris. One other that I would pair with coreopsis is the spiderwort, which is indestructible, long blooming, and easy to propagate.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 2:28AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Welcome to the most relaxing and rewarding pastime, smokey.

Additional suggestions:
Plant in swatches of the same perennial or at least 3 of each in a group. Your garden will be more attractive than planting one of each plant. Vary the form, size, structure and texture to add interest.

I have mixed large, bold plants among smaller ones to make a statement. Mind you it took more than 20 years for my garden to reach this state.

Front garden:

This was my backyard this spring. It is much fuller now just like the front garden:

Visit the Winter Sowing forum to learn how to get a large number of plants at low cost.

Have fun in your retirement.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:55AM
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roxanna(z5b MA)

if you can, plant narcissus (daffodills) for fabulous spring bloom that will just get better over the years. Large-cup types give the most "bang" but all are lovely, and the time to order & plant them is upon us. You must let the leaves turn yellow/brown to feed the following year's bloom, which can be unsightly, but it's worth it. If you plant narcissus between or behind daylilies, the daylily foliage will pretty much hide the ripening daff foliage.

And don't get me started on daylilies -- or hosta! Both are wonderful perennials that only get better through the years. There is a forum here on Gardenweb for each of these -- check them out. Lots of photos and plenty of great advice.

Have fun gardening!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 11:34AM
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thank you all for the wonderful answers. I live in the western north Carolina mountains, not sure what zone that is as I am a new gardener. I have been composting and adding that to the area I am planting in. Its also been mulched for over 20 years each spring with pine bark mulch and the soil is black and hopefully rich. I have printed your answers and plan to take them to Lowes to buy plants on Saturday. I also plan to buy some bushes such as butterfly and lilacs. Are there any other flowering bushes that come to mind as being both hardy and beautiful? Thanks so much. Oh, my area gets full sunshine.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 12:16PM
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ked1985(7a NoVA)

Be careful with butterfly bushes as they can be invasive in some areas (I know they are listed as invasive in Virginia). Some sun perennials that have been easy for me and carefree have definitely been black eyed susans, shasta daisy (I have the shorter, clumping variety called 'Snowcap'), creeping phlox, and any sedum (I love sedums!). I also fell in love with hydrangea paniculata this year if you're looking for a flowering shrub.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 12:37PM
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moistbutwelldrained(7b - North Carolina)

Smokey, you asked "Are there any other flowering bushes that come to mind as being both hardy and beautiful?" A North Carolina native flowering shrub that is also evergreen and very hardy is the Wax Myrtle. My daughter in Carrboro has several in her yard and they are lovely.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:11PM
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I have printed your answers and plan to take them to Lowes to buy plants on Saturday.

A few words of caution - big box stores offer plants at bargain prices but may not be the most reliable sources for purchasing the healthy perennials you want to add. Altho' they generally offer money-back guarantees, it's smart to consider both local and online independent nurseries such as Bluestone Perennials, High Country Gardens and Santa Rosa Gardens, to name a few among many other reputable sources.

Other flowering shrubs that are growing in my own garden beds & which you might be happy to add to yours include

Spiraea fritschiana (spirea)
Cimicifuga racemosa (black snakeroot)*
Daphne ÃÂ burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie'**
Hypericum (St. John's wort)
Caryopteris x clandonensis (blue mist shrub)
Baptisia/false indigo*

* while classified as a perennial, not a shrub, both grow quite large & take up a fair amount of real estate at maturity

** TIP: plant it on a slope

Don't rule out some ornamental grasses for a textural contrast to deciduous perennials. Grasses tend to maintain their form throughout cold weather and can add winter interest. I have these in my garden beds:

Pennisetum alopecuroides/fountain grass 'Hameln'
Calamagrostis/feather reed grass 'Karl Foerster'
Carex/variegated Japanese sedge grass 'Ice Dance'

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:15PM
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moistbutwelldrained(7b - North Carolina)

Gardenweed, I have a large order coming in September from Bluestone Perennials and I agree that they have a wonderful selection. But I've been surprised that Lowe's Hardware in North Carolina has offered excellent plants this year. I have bought several coneflowers, Russian sage, veronica, physostegia, etc from Lowes. The cultivars are the latest and best, the plants are well rooted and healthy, and the price is about 1/3rd what I would pay from Bluestone if you include shipping charges. Lowes does not have a huge variety of perennials, but for a beginner who has nothing, every good plant is a worthwhile investment. MBWD

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:18PM
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I agree with all the above suggestions but I just want to add some of the named cultivars that do really well for me.

Coreopsis Star Cluster-blooms continuously and spreads into huge mounds quickly

Roxanne hardy geranium as previously mentioned by lilsprout .- blooms all summer

Peony - Petite Elegance (nice scent, form, and does not flop
Peony - Cytherea and Coral Sunset

Daylily - El Desperado, Sherry Lane Carr, and Aztec Beauty

Catmint - Walker's Low

Shasta daisy - Banana Cream

And since you are in the Carolinas, you should grow the Carolina Allspice Sweetshrubs which come in different colors.

Best of luck and have fun.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:34PM
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northerngirl_mi(Z5 MI)

Lots of good advice. But note that 'big box' stores tend to change their plants in stock based on the season, so now you will likely find things that will bloom now or very soon. You will want to get some earlier bloomers as well, so plan to shop again in the spring and again in the early summer, or visit a good independent garden center that may still have some early blooming plants in stock.

Beth z5, northern Michigan

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:51PM
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spedigrees z4VT

pitimpinai, I just wanted to remark on how lovely your gardens are! Absolutely lovely!

Smokey, congratulations on your retirement. Phlox is my favorite perennial, but I'm not sure how well suited it is to southern climes. (I'm in northern New England and it does well here.) Be sure to post photos when your plants begin to flower. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:11PM
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