Before gardeners plant and enjoy perennials in their landscapes, I recommend that they go through a few steps in the process of creating a garden that fulfills their needs and that they’ll appreciate year after year. If you’ve inherited a garden that you didn’t design yourself, you might want to rethink sections (or all of it) to suit your taste. (Because shouldn’t your garden reflect you?)

Tradescantia virginiana

Spiderwort’s Latin name, Tradescantia, honors early English father and son botanists, the Tradescants.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

Stoke’s aster

The pretty flowers of Stoke’s aster come in many pastel colors.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

Many perennials provide year-long interest with their attractive foliage.

Photo Credit: Grandiflora™

Generally long-lived and adaptable to any garden situation, perennials bring constantly changing appeal to your landscape. If planted in the right spot and maintained, they can resist pest and disease problems. They can give you that dash of color you need in a dark corner or provide an overall feel that unifies your entire property – and they’ll do that same thing for you next year…and the year after that. Because perennials are regular players in the garden (as opposed to annuals, which come and go and can be replaced each season), there’s some special planning involved in perennial selection and care. (There may be lots of things to consider, but that’s the fun of gardening!)

As I mention in “Designing With Perennials,” you need to know your landscape and yourself. This is the vital piece in planning. Where is it full sun, and which part of the garden stays wet? Do you want to emphasize a particular color in your yard? Are you more attracted to symmetry and order, or maybe whimsy and a naturalistic look? Will you be puttering around the garden all day (and don’t mind a few plants that require extra care) or just enjoying it on the weekends (and want low-maintenance plants)? These are all good questions to ask yourself before choosing and planting your perennials.

And there are so many choices! That’s the good news and the bad. A perennial exists for every garden situation you need to satisfy, but how do you know which one(s) to pick?

Look for essential characteristics that you know you want. Consider the height of the plant, the time of year that it blooms or how long it provides interest from its foliage. Think about color, texture and possible companion plants for it. Then answer these questions: Is the perennial hardy and suited for your particular garden spot? Will it stay put for years to come or spread itself around the garden? Does the perennial fulfill your specific needs? Once you’ve figured these issues out, plant selection will be made much simpler.

Finally, don’t fret about it! Perennials aren’t sunk into the ground in cement. Plan your garden out and keep a positive attitude. Change is inevitable; this, too, shall pass. If something doesn’t perform to your liking, just dig it up and move it or give it to someone else to try. That’s also the fun of gardening – you can change it any time you wish.