I try new plants every year, but I have my favorite perennials that I use over and over again.
Here is a beginning list of my top 5 picks. These are based on performance over the years in my own gardens. They are all low fuss, low maintenance plants that add interest to the garden for an extended amount of time.
Autumn Joy Sedum
This has become one of the most popular perennials in recent years, and with good reason.
It is extremely forgiving, drought tolerant, and grows well in most any soil. It does the best in full sun, but is very tolerant of partial shade. Autumn Joy comes out early in the season and grows rapidly, creating pleasing mounds of succulent green leaves by June. It flourishes all summer long, then begins to deepen in color during the fall, adding wonderful color to the Autumn garden. This is one of the few plants that I do not cut back in the fall, because the tall bare stalks add interest to the Winter garden. It's really a 4 season charmer. Once this plant is established, it can (and should) be divided regularly. It's easy to do and will allow you to add more plants to your garden or share with friends and neighbors.
Lady's Mantle is one of my very favorite plants. Although a staple in English cottage gardens, it does not seem to enjoy the same popularity in the States. This is another easy to grow plant that does best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. I love this plant because it forms a lovely compact mound of frilly leaves that hold droplets of water when it rains. In late May to early June it sends out frilly yellow blooms on long stalks, adding even more interest to this sweet plant. Once the blooms are spent, clip them off, and you will enjoy the foliage late into the fall, when it yellows. Your plants will send out little offspring that are easy to move and are quick to develop into new plants.These are a wonderful choice for a cottage garden, border, or even a more manicured garden bed.
These plants are also know as perennial Bachelor Buttons. I can't believe how fantastic these are. Their elongated leaves come out in early spring and quickly grow to 12-14". Mine are already blooming profusely this year, which is amazingly early. The flowers are rather delicate and a very brilliant blue, and look great in cut arrangments. The really fabulous thing is that, with regular deadheading, these plants will flower from June until September! Yup, you heard me right.
Another early riser, Penstemon's green and red foliage will look great in the Spring. By mid-summer, they have tall white to light pink flowers that last through early fall. Cut the flowers back when they are spent, and the foliage will deepen in color and stay lively in the Fall garden. These grow about 2 feet tall, so are wonderful for a back border plant or as a tall accent plant in your beds.
I cannot get enough of these, and it seems like I find a new variety every time I turn around. Green, red, chartreuse, silver-add one wherever you need a little fill in, low mound or bit of color and texture. They really go crazy in rock gardens, creeping and crawling and mixing to create a lush carpet among the rocks.
They are also fabulous for planters, adding texture and spilling over the sides of your pots. They are totally forgiving (if they creep over to a spot you don't want them in-just pluck them out) and easy, easy, easy to grow. Get some now.
As I said, these favorites are based on performance in my own gardens-they've really become tried and trues for me. If you have questions about use in your own gardens, or about details that I may have missed, please e-mail me and I will try to help you out!