Planting & Maintaining Perennials
Perennials are an important part of most good planting schemes. One of the main attractions of including perennials in any garden is the constantly changing growth, shape and colour of the plant as it moves through the gardening calendar. Spring sees the young new shoots emerging through the soil with just a peek of what it has to offer for the rest of the year. As time moves on the plant continues to emerge until it reaches its peak in all its splendour at the height of summer. Many perennials peak in September and October and offer up beautiful seed heads that carry through the winter and look nothing but spectacular in the winter months. For these reasons the inclusion of perennial planting adds both structure and diversity to any garden.
Planting New Perennials
When planting container bought perennials, spring and autumn provide ideal conditions for establishing these plants. Spring planting maximises the growing season giving them plenty of opportunity to establish themselves before the onset of winter. Equally autumn is ideal as the soil is still moist, hence they are less likely to dry out, and again autumn offers plenty of time to establish a good root system before the frosts set in.
Generally perennials are reasonably priced with plenty of choices available, so careful planning is needed to blend in colour, shape and the months the plant is in flower along with height and structure. Also remember to allow plenty of space to allow the plant to fill out. Planting in odd numbers and in groups can provide a stunning display. Look around at the other plants, shrubs, trees and structures in the garden when considering the planting scheme.
1. Dig a good size hole for the plant revitalizing the soil with garden compost and a handful of bone meal.
2. Give the plant a good soak just before planting, and then ease out the rootball. If the roots have become congested tease out the rootball a little before planting.
3. Set the plant in the hole at the same depth as the soil surface. Fill in around the gaps with soil firming in the plant with your hands.
4. Water the plant in well.
Dividing Established Perennials
Many perennials after they have finished flowering can resort to looking tatty and unkempt. September and October is the ideal time to tidy them up by cutting back any overgrown foliage. This is also the ideal time to divide any overgrown and overcrowded plants. Perennials such as phlox, sedums and asters are easy to divide, providing the gardener with plenty of new plants to place in other parts of the garden or to pass on to gardening friends.
Some perennials such as peonies do not like being disturbed, so be cautious. There are literally thousands of perennials so a little research beforehand should be advised.
Clumps that need dividing should be lifted with a fork and placed in suitable place where you deal with it. Divide a large clump with two forks back to back placed in the centre of the clump and push the forks apart to split the plant. Pull smaller pieces apart by hand. Perennials such as hostas can even be split by literally cutting through with a knife or a spade.
Once you have your new plant revitalise the prepared hole with compost or manure and a handful of bone meal. Place the new plant in the hole and firm the new plant in by packing the soil around it. Once planted water in well. Generally herbaceous perennials are easily moved taking easily to their new home and don’t take too long to establish themselves.
Collecting Seed from Perennials
Autumn is a perfect time for seed collection. Many perennials will self-seed everywhere and can be almost thug like as to where they take hold. Any unwanted seedlings in spring can be just removed by hand or can be replanted in a more favourable position. Alternatively collect dried seed heads and sprinkle into a paper bag, label up and keep for sowing in a seed tray next spring or sow directly in the ground where you wish the seeds to grow.