Thursday, August 23, 2007

Perennial Garden

We started a perennial garden late last year from plants we purchased for half off at Jesse Israel's. Yes, they actually put their plants on half off at the end of the year! The perennial garden centers around a purple and yellow color theme accomplished through use of hydrangeas and many varieties of perennials. I have been tinkering with the space all year trying to get the right combination of flowers in the right places, and I am finally happy with the results. It doesn't look as good digitally as it does in real life, but here are some pictures anyway.

View from the deck:

perennial garden 8 2007

Opposite view:

perennial garden 8 2007

I have already shared photos and information on the hydrangeas in this garden, so let's talk perennials. I planted a prairie petite lilac, coreopsis, artemesia, scabiosa, calla lilies, irises, baby's breath, baptisia, veronica, cone flower, catmint, pilgrim's sage, polemonium, obedient plant and centaurea montana.

I purchased the prairie petite lilac from Wayside Gardens last fall. I was VERY disappointed in the size of it, and it has not grown much since then. I was excited about this shrub, because I love the scent of lilacs, but I have no place to put a huge lilac bush. The prairie petite grows to only 4' x 4', so it will fit into the perennial garden very nicely ... if it ever grows. It is currently about 12" in height. I don't think it has grown since we bought it. Side note : I do not purchase from Wayside Gardens any more.

prairie petite lilac

When my niko blue hydrangea didn't make it through the winter, I decided to fill in its bare spot with some taller perennials instead of another hydrangea. I chose baptisia after falling in love with it in the Bluestone Perennial catalogue. Baptisia forms a bush-like habit reaching 3' x 3' in size at maturity. In late spring, it forms lovely blue lupine-like flowers that age into unique black pods. The pods are good for indoor flower arrangements and provide a nice winter snack for birds. Baptisia performs well in full sun or part shade and does not require much water. I planted mine in the back of the flower bed, which receives only 3 hours of sun a day, and they have done well. Baptisia does not appreciate being moved once established since it forms a long taproot, similar to that of a tree. Cutting the taproot cuts the plant's source of nourishment.


Veronica is a great plant to fill in here and there since it has beautiful foliage and lovely vertical flowers. I have a grouping of 4 of them in the garden. I like how the purple of the veronica contrasts with the yellow of the coreopsis to create interest. Veronica is drought-tolerant and blooms all summer long.

veronica 8 2007

Cone flower is a standard favorite around Asheville. Every garden I see as I drive around town is overflowing with it. I like it too, and since it seems to do well in this area, I had to add some to the garden. I decided on White Swan for this part of the garden since I could not find any in yellow, and the "purple" standard for cone flower is actually magenta. I have found it in a beautiful orange color, but it is priced a little too high for my taste. I don't like to pay more than $5 for a perennial! That doesn't seem like much, but when you are buying three of one plant, it adds up quickly.

white swan cone flower

My friend Chleone shared some flowers from her beautiful garden. Two of those are obedient plant and centaurea montana.

Obedient plant has a habit similar to Veronica, but it grows a bit taller and is quite invasive if not contained. I want to fill up this portion of the garden quickly, so I didn't contain the initial division. I'm sure I will regret that in a couple years! It seems to be pretty drought-tolerant and can withstand the part shade that it receives in the back of the perennial border. Once the hydrangeas reach full-size, I think this plant will be gorgeous peaking out from behind the big white poms of the Blushing Bride hydrangea.

lavendar obedient plant

The centaurea montana has grown very quickly since I received the division. I initially cut it back to the ground after planting, and it has not only grown back, but is getting ready to bloom. This plant has been very drought-tolerant and hardy. It is also invasive, but spreads via seed, so if you keep it dead-headed, you shouldn't have much problems with this plant.

centaurea montana

I have been disappointed with the calla lilies this year. I purchased three bulbs last May, and they bloomed beautifully. I dug them up and stored them over winter and replanted them in late spring. I was AMAZED at how many more I dug up than I had initially planted. The bulbs grew very quickly, and I had a couple blooms, but the blooms never turned yellow, just stayed green. I'm not sure what is going on here. I need to do some investigating!

calla lilies

The baby's breath has done nothing but creep along the floor of the garden. It may not actually be getting enough sun. I guess I'll see how it does next year.

baby's breath

I think I am satisfied with the positioning of everything in the garden for now. I am excited to see the plants spread and fill in the bare spaces. Perennial gardening certainly takes some patience!

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At 9:08 PM , Blogger Elise said...

Your gardens are all beautiful! How do you know about your soil types and what to add? Do you have a particular source you use for research purposes. I love the black-eyed susan vine. I've never seen one of those. And the hydrangeas are gorgeous, the roses, everything really.

My sister purchased a few plants for us as a house warming gift and planted them. I became a bit addicted to the gardening this summer and expanded the garden with perennials that are purple and yellow as well. I've had some luck, but a few plants have died. Did it take you a while to figure out which plants take to what soil types. I have no idea how to even begin finding out what type of soil I have.

Any tips you can give me I would appreciate. I am amazed at how hearty all your plants are, even your tomatoes! You are talented, woman.

At 9:56 AM , Blogger Goodboy Norman Featherstone said...

Hi Elise! It's good to hear that you like to garden too. I became addicted last year, and it hasn't let up a bit! In fact, it's getting worse and worse, as I keep planting more and more!

Your soil is probably clay like mine. You need to add organic material to clay in order to increase the drainage; otherwise, your plants will have "wet feet", because the water doesn't drain well. Not a lot of plants like this (calla lilies do thrive in wet areas). Add some peat, manure or compost to the soil. I usually go by the 1/3 rule - 1/3 organic material, 2/3 native soil.

The Time Life Encyclopedia on Gardening has been INVALUABLE to me. It has taught me about proper soil preparation, site location, watering, fertilization, etc. You can find it on Ebay relatively cheap. It's a great winter read to prepare for next season's gardening chores. I recommend starting here. It will teach you good habits and an understanding of how to create soil in which plants will thrive.

Good luck!

At 9:12 PM , Blogger Elise said...

It has taken me forever to come back and find your comment because my new job has consumed me. No time for the internet lately.

You've given some great tips. I am going to purchase a copy of the book you recommended to read this summer. I will definitely treat my soil next year like you do. Can I dig up plants I've already planted, treat the the soil, and then replant them next spring without killing them? I have a couple of black eyed susan bushes that I thought would do fine because they are wild all over Georgia, but even they look frail at times. I've had the best luck with a couple of gardenia bushes. They have really grown and are thriving.

The gardening is extremely addicting. I can see why it keeps getting worse and worse for you. People like you and me like to do things perfectly and kick butt. It's a challenge, and the rewards are so visible.


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