Perennial Garden Ideas

Perennial gardening ideas are probably as numerous as there are gardeners, but if you’re new to gardening and want some help planning your own perennial garden it can be overwhelming at first.

My best advice though, is to plunge in and go for it.  Gardening can be learned, but the best teacher will be yourself and your own experience.

If you are serious about having a perennial garden, some observation and planning will help you to be more successful.  First of all study your space.  There are different perennial gardening ideas for all kinds of situations.   Is it Sunny? Shady? Dry or wet in your yard?  Once you know the environment of your space, learn what plants will thrive in it.

A few other things to consider when planning the placement of your garden are the easy access to water, the location of buried sewer systems, and electric cables, nearby tree roots, and finally, perhaps it’s important for you to see your garden when you’re inside your house. If so, plan accordingly.

Let’s say you know where you want your garden to be. Your next step is to prepare the soil.  The work you put in at the beginning might be extensive, but in the long run, it will benefit you with healthier plants with more abundant growth and flowers.

This is a new perennial bed being prepared for a perennial garden. Because there are tree roots that I didn't want to disturb, I did much of the sod removal and amending of the soil with small hand tools.  It was laborious, but very satisfying, too.

Perennial gardening ideas involve knowing what kind of soil you have.  Basically there are three types of soil heavy clay, good garden soil, and sandy soil that dries out quickly.  Most flowering perennials appreciate soil that is closer to the middle of the scale.

Chances are whatever your soil is it could afford to be improved upon a bit.  Adding a 2-4 inch layer of rich humus and digging it into your soil will make a better home for your future garden than just plunking your new perennials into whatever is already present.

Doing some hardscaping in the beginning is also a good idea.  Are you going to plant in a circle around a central focal point?  Is your garden going to be surrounded by a fence or shrubs?  Are there paths?  Is privacy an issue?  Do you want somewhere to sit? Do you plan on using trellises or arbors?

This garden is in transition.  It has been a vegetable garden in  the past, and parts of it still are, but increasing shade has caused the gardener to start planting a few perennials in the sunny pockets and has replaced some vegetables with annuals for this season anyway.  Next year the marigolds and gladiola bulbs will probably be replaced with shade tolerant perennials. 

Start small.  Perennials are expensive at first, but of course they get more affordable the longer they live in your garden. Annuals are cheaper in the beginning, but since they have to be purchased every year they eventually become more expensive in the long run.

Choose your perennials carefully.  Don’t start out with the unfamiliar and exotic.  These will be more apt to give you problems than something that you’ve long admired and obviously grows well in all your neighbors’ gardens.

Read the tags, follow them carefully, and ask questions of anyone you think can help you.  Gardeners love to share their successes and most would probably be very eager to help you if you have a question.

Notice how this small, fairly new perennial bed is backed with a trellis and a Clematis, then there are tall day lilies and shorter garden phlox. When you are buying or planting perennials, try to pay attention to their mature size so that eventually one plant doesn't hide another smaller one.

Whatever your perennial gardening idea is, do your homework.  I say this, but many of us probably start out gardening because we inherited a garden when we bought a new property, or our neighbor gave us some plants that she divided and didn’t have room for, or perhaps your grandmother gave you an heirloom rose bush that she doesn’t want to give to just anyone.  So now do your homework!  What do you need to do to protect these unexpected garden treasures?

Gardens come in all sizes, shapes, and styles and there are perennial gardening ideas for all of them.  Do you know your style?  If you want a formal garden, you might consider some perennial shrubs like boxwood that can be neatly trimmed into borders or shapes.  Look at pictures and identify the plants that are commonly used in your favorite style, then shop purposely for these.

If your garden is more casual or if your purpose is to provide food and shelter for birds you might want to invest in highbush cranberry bushes or flowering dogwood as borders.

Do flopping flowers annoy you?  If so look for plants with sturdy stems that do not need staking.  Don’t invest in plants that require more care than you’re willing or able to give them.  On the other hand, if a cottage garden is more your style you probably won’t mind the floppers as much.

Perennial garden ideas are easy to find in garden magazines and if you find a picture that appeals to you cut it out.  Study it carefully.  Take it with you when you go to your favorite local gardening center.  Ask someone what plants could be used to achieve a similar look in your area.

There are magazines to match every gardening style imaginable too so look for perennial gardening ideas in an appropriate publication. Here are some garden styles that might pique your interest:  Besides formal gardens and cottage gardens, there are shade gardens, fragrant gardens, color scheme gardens, and gardens that specialize in one plant like roses, lilies or hostas.

This garden was created around a favorite blue birdbath.

Eclectic gardens might be filled with garden art or found objects. Edible gardens might have vegetables interspersed among the perennials. Cutting gardens, bog gardens, rock gardens and herb gardens all have specialized needs and plants that may or may not be appropriate in another style of garden.

Be patient. Perennials grow steadily bigger every year. They probably won’t look picture perfect immediately and if you buy young plants they may not even bloom the first year. 

Gradually add plants to your perennial garden and look for things that complement what you already have.  Look for plants that have similar growing requirements to be the most successful. 

If you’re like me, bring a list with you to the garden center.  I am often overwhelmed by the beauty and variety of plants available and I’m apt to make an impulse purchase if I don’t have a list with me...sometimes I do anyway, but that's a different story!

This is the same garden pictured earlier, but now it is two years later. The native milkweed planted itself and it is also taller than my carefully shorter to taller in the back plan...but it looks great!

Be flexible.  Perennial garden ideas abound, but sometimes Mother Nature has a different (and usually better idea) than you could have ever imagined.)  Go with it!

If a perennial you really wanted doesn’t thrive in a spot, try to find another place for it that it might like better.  If something you thought would be short decides to overpower its neighbors, move it.  Replant it nearer the back of the garden. 

Related Articles:

Understanding Perennials
Fragrant Perennials
Shade Garden
Shady Perennials
Foliage Perennials
Starting a Garden
Small Space Gardens
Fall Blooming Perennials
Transplanting Perennials
Drought Resistant Plants
Drought Resistant Perennials
Prairie Restoration
Spring Photo Gallery
Photo Gallery
Anticipating Change
Eclectic Gardens
Blue Perennials
Red Perennials
Border gardens
Perennial Geraniums

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