by Jan Cashman
Perennial flowers are great because they don’t have to be replanted each year. Sure, a plant might have to be replaced here and there, but generally a perennial flower bed costs less and is easier to maintain than one planted with annual flowers. Some perennial flowers, such as iris and lilies, have a relatively short bloom time. Planting perennials that have a longer bloom time will help to you accomplish continuous blooming and color in your perennial garden. With careful planning, and some deadheading, your perennial flower garden can have colorful flowers in it all summer.
Aubrieta is a small, mounding rock garden plant with magenta or blue flowers that bloom for a long time in the spring. Its foliage is evergreen; new varieties of aubrieta are available with variegated leaves. Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is another low ground cover that does better in shady areas. It has pure white star-shaped flowers that continue blooming for weeks in the spring and into summer.
Catmint (Nepeta) is a spreading ground cover with blue flowers that I have had planted for years under a tree in my perennial garden. Its leaves and flowers have an appealing, minty fragrance. ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint is a hybrid variety that was voted 2007 perennial of the year. Catmint can reseed and become invasive but ‘Walkers Low’ has sterile seeds, so it won’t spread. Deer don’t like it and it thrives in dry, harsh conditions. If you cut it down to half its height in July, after the first bloom is done, you’ll get a second bloom.
A selection of scabiosa, or pincushion flower, called ‘Butterfly Blue’ blooms all summer if deadheaded. It is only 12 to 16” high with dainty, two inch, light blue flowers. This plant also received the perennial of the year award in 2001. It grows in full sun and tolerates dry conditions. Great in a cut flower arrangement!
Although yarrow (Achillea) is a tough, drought tolerant plant, some varieties can be extremely invasive, even choking out grass, but the hybrid ‘Moonshine’ does not spread. Moonshine’s bright, true-yellow flowers last for weeks. When picked in full bloom, they dry easily and retain their bright color for months in a dried flower arrangement or wreath.
Yet another perennial plant of the year from 1992 is ‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis. A selection of threadleaf coreopsis, ‘Moonbeam’ will bloom with yellow flowers all summer, especially if spent flowers are trimmed off. It likes full sun and is drought tolerant.
Hardy geraniums top my list of favorite perennial flowers for many reasons—their long blooming time being just one of them. ‘Rozanne’ hardy geranium, 2008 perennial of the year, is a particularly nice hardy geranium hybrid with large, blue flowers recurring throughout the summer. Its mounding foliage turns reddish in the fall. Hardy geraniums grow in full sun to partial shade.
‘Goldsturm’ rudbeckia, a type of brown-eyed susan, was named perennial plant of the year in 1999. It has masses of yellow, daisy-like flowers that bloom from July until a hard frost, often lasting into October. Great for late blooms in the garden when tender annuals have frozen–the flowers last a long time when cut for a bouquet.
There are other perennials with a long bloom time, such as campanulas, gaillardia, Stella d’ Oro daylily, lavender, coneflowers, and salvias. Another way to get even more color in your perennial garden is to mix in plants with colorful leaves or add annual flowers. Plants like Autumn Joy sedum and ornamental grasses will give you interesting textures in every season, even when they are not in bloom.
Most of these long blooming perennials are drought tolerant and deer resistant. Five of the plants mentioned above received the perennial plant of the year, awarded by the Perennial Plant Association, so they are truly long-blooming winners! Plant them and enjoy their flowers!