2018-05-03 / From The Garden

Sun and Warmth Sprout Perennials

By Cynthia Gibson


Lupines are a deer resistant plant and make a great addition to a landscape. They also attract bees and butterflies. Lupines are a deer resistant plant and make a great addition to a landscape. They also attract bees and butterflies. Hopefully we are experiencing some of the last of the “nip” in the air and spring will finally spring. It is certainly time for sun and warmth. Our garden beds are showing hints of old weeds, and every seed head left from your plants last fall has dropped into the soil and is beginning to sprout.

Perennials are breaking through the soil of your flowerbeds, so now is the time to weed, weed, weed. Cut back all those dead woody stems and give perennials fertilizer, mulch, manure and the breathing space they deserve. It is also time to divide your established perennials.

A large perennial bed can also include herbaceous flowering shrubs like hydrangea or rose topiary, if they are pruned and kept to a decent, non-overpowering height.

When it comes to planting, perennials (not including, tubers, bulbs or corms) are easy. What should you pay attention to while planning your perennial flower bed? First, start with fresh bags of garden soil and manure. I order even-numbered bags for each bed. You want the soil/manure mixture in your bed to be at least six inches deep, so your seeds or baby plants have room to grow and spread into each other. This type of planting, when plants blend into each other, is natural and lovely.


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. For our zone, which is 7A, we need hardy perennials. The following varieties will last a long time and will provide height, depth and color. A well-planned perennial bed can also be used for cutting.

For height, plant the taller varieties of Coneflower, Yarrow, Lupine, Foxglove and Liatris. All thrive on Aquidneck Island and are available in most nurseries and garden centers. For medium height plants, your choices are endless. For silver color, select any of the Artemisias. For other colored plants, Astilbe, Bleeding Heart (pink, white and now salmon) and Campanulas (Bell Flower) are beautiful, especially the perennial “Peach Leaf” Campanula, Rudebeckia and Coreopsis. The list is long, and we are lucky to be surrounded by so many excellent growers of healthy, classic, traditional and exotic varieties of perennials.

For perennials that are great for filling in borders and low bare spots, I suggest “Lady’s Mantle,” which has leaves that are reminiscent of a lady’s cape. During the dewy mornings of summer, each leaf will hold a single drop of water that makes it glisten in the sun. They also produce a fantastic, feathery, compound chartreuse flower that looks great and makes for a wonderful filler in flower arrangements. It is a naturally spreading plant that self-seeds and will last for decades. The shorter “sedums” are great as small plants that might grow to a foot or so. Sedums attract bees and are also long lasting.

The “clumping” perennials include the corms, tubers and bulbs. Corms and tubers, such as iris, day lilies (depending upon variety) and lilium, grow all summer. Lilium or lilies include Asiatic, Longiflorum, Tiger, Aurelian, Trumpet and more exotic types. These lilies have a strong, lovely fragrance. Day lilies, which are corms, last only for one day. Iris are corms as well and produce magnificent flowers. Most types flourish on Aquidneck Island, as do daylilies and lilium.

Of this last group, lilium is planted in the fall. The rest can be planted this spring and you might get a flower your first year. Although perennials are more expensive, they are worth the investment.

Perennials need room to grow, so if you are planning your first perennial bed, you can fill in the empty spaces with annuals. As your perennials become established, remove all the annuals and place those in pots or mix them with your vegetable plants.

There is nothing like a large perennial bed or perennial borders for impact and beauty in your yard.

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