Sunday, August 24

On the hunt for perennials

Our garden isn't very big so we can't really afford to have areas that just aren't earning their keep. At the moment we seem to have more areas that are just not doing it than are. The cold farme courtyard is in limbo at the moment - it's in no way finished but is in a more satisfactory state than it has been for years and is now a productive area rather than a dumping ground.

You may remember that I planted up a blue and white border. This initially seemed to be working but many plants and bulbs have just disappeared. 

This border curves round to join another bed which is in need of a complete makeover.
I'll go into detail about our work on these beds in a later post but for now I'll just say that we are on the lookout for perennials to plant in these areas, blue, white and maybe cream for one area and reds, yellows etc. for the other bed. I want some perennials that will give colour at this time of year such as heleniums, rudbeckia, achilleas and echinaceas. I didn't want the standard garden centre offerings and want to be able to see the plants in flower before making my choices.

On our latest visit to Harlow Carr whilst sheltering from the downpour that cut short our tour of the garden I collected several leaflets about partner gardens. One was for Breezy Knees - a perennial nursery and garden that was described as having "over 1,500 different varieties to choose from, including many rare plants, lots of recent introductions and definitely loads your neighbours won't have. And everything we sell can be seen growing in the gardens, having been tested by whatever the Yorkshire weather has thrown at them". Sounded just the ticket so off we set on Friday all prepared to return home with a boot load of plants. 

The gardens were beautiful and more extensive than we had expected - well worth a visit - I'll post photos on my Wordless Wednesday post (Martyn has posted some of his photos on Facebook here) and we spotted lots that we would like  all well labelled.
Having taken note of possible purchases we headed for the nursery in anticipation of parting with a substantial amount of cash.
This was where disappointment set in - no sign of any of the plants on our list and those plants that were on sale looked well past their best. So is it the wrong time to buy perennials? Do we have to buy when they are first coming into growth at a time when we can't see them on flower in the garden? Does this mean we have to wait until next year? We just wanted to see what we liked in the garden and go and buy a plant from the nursery but this seems impossible. Interestingly in the time that we were there we didn't see anyone buying a plant. 

Have you any favourite varieties of perennials - not too large - that you think we should consider?


14 comments:

  1. I'm doing up a perennial border next spring (as people don't plant perennials much in the summer around here). Your dwarf red Helenium is on my list. I just hope it does well. When perusing flowers I find I like the daisy like flowers the best (cornflowers, rudbeckia, heleniums etc). So I have to make myself pick different ones too for a little contrast. I'm buying from catalogs and seed for them though as I want very particular plants (like you do). I need mostly dwarf ones to be low enough for the garden. I don't want the varieties that most people are selling. We do have a very nice iris hybridizer in our state though. I'll probably get our one iris from them.

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    1. There are definitely more daisy types on flower at the moment, Daphne and I was thinking the same that we needed different flower shapes too

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  2. What an unfortunate experience at that Garden Centre. I was luckier the other day when I visited my local. I bought a lovely Helenium that was in full flower, and they had several specimens from which to choose. Actually, I was spoilt for choice, because they had many other plants I would have liked. And I am not normally given to singing the praises of chain-owned GCs! I just wish the plants weren't so expensive...

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    1. It was disappointing, Mark., as we thought going to a specialist grower would give us a wider choice

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  3. Wow... you have a banana tree there!
    Actually I have no idea about perennial for subtropical area. I have to learn about it more.

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    1. It's Musa Basjoo, Endah - a hardy banana that doesn't have fruit

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  4. What a shame Sue. I would have thought that a good nursery would be well stocked at this time of year, in readiness for gardeners who prefer to plant their perennials in the autumn when the soil is still warm. Maybe the nursery might have been overambitious in stocking so many varieties and has overstretched itself or maybe their stock has been zapped by the weather in July. Still on the plus side you've been able to note some names down for the future. Looking at your top photo I can see an actaea or two fitting in nicely - late flowering and scented too.

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    1. We have an actaea in a different bed, Anna. It's grows plenty of leaves but no flowers. You;ve made me wonder whether it needs a more shady spot. Maybe I should move it.

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  5. What a shame you didn't get to buy anything! I grew gailardia from seed this year and it has been flowering for ages and still has lots of flower heads coming through. I like the sound of the plants you are planning on getting.xxx

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    1. Gaillardia was a possinility Snowbird - the trouble is when growing from seed I end up with too many plants. I did this with achillea several years ago amd O am hopeless at discarding seedlings

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  6. I like echinaceas, I had a white one which didn't do very well. And I'm a big fan of lavender as well, I still have some flowers on mine, and I've just bought a white one from Aldi, a stoechas one so it might be a little tender - we shall see. I shall look forward to seeing what you come up with, hopefully you'll find a good garden shop that stocks what you need.

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    1. I look forward to seeing what we come up with too CJ :)

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  7. For red, I have Lobelia Cardinalis 'Queen Victoria' in flower in the garden at the moment and it looks lovely. As long as it is not too wet/cold where you are, it should survive the winter (otherwise mulch it). I love cannas and they would go well with the banana plant. You may have to lift them though to get them through the winter. For blue you could try CERATOSTIGMA PLUMBAGINOIDES. It is a shrub but low-growing so it won't dominate. But the blue is delightful! It does like a good bit of sun though. I shall follow your developments with interest!

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  8. The banana is coming out and going in a pot HG. The lobeloa is a possibility though and would give a contrasting shape, The blue are is rather shady.

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