Autumn is the best time for perennials

Perennials are undemanding foundation plant material of flower beds. Once established, most perennial plants require little in the way of maintenance and if taken care of, will faithfully return year after year, some living for decades.

A bronze sundial stands guard over a perennial garden featuring red hot pokers. The sundial focal point with hues of oranges and golds compliments the dramatic floral spikes of the red
hot pokers.

The accepted horticulture usage of the term perennial is that of an herbaceous plant that emerges in the spring, grows during the summer months, dies back in the winter, and comes back year after year.

Establishing a perennial garden is not a difficult task but there are a few strategies to consider.

• Timing of perennial planting. Autumn is the best time to establish perennial plants. Soils are warm, which enhances rapid root development; days are sunny and warm but not hot, nights are cooling, favoring shoot growth. Plants should be set into the garden when there remain several weeks of favorable growing conditions. We still have several weeks before our average first freeze, giving gardeners ample time to plant.

• Start with the size and location of the garden. The dimensions of planting space determines how many mature plants will fit. Location determines if plant materials are full sun, full shade, or partial shade plants.

Ellen Peffley

• Provide a focal point. Statuary and fountains make bold focal points. Hard surfaces like fencing, railings, gates, or walkways define boundaries. Dramatic plants like the red hot pokers in the photo provide living focal points in a well-defined space.

• Available water. Decide if plant material is to be drought tolerant for xeric gardens, or lush for mesic gardens. Know in advance how the garden is to be watered. Even drought tolerant plants require water until root systems are established.

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