Plant Perennials To Have More Beauty with Less Work
Perennials are an indispensable part of every garden, regardless of size. They are a source of background in color and size and provide an abundance of cut flowers. The long-time standard favorites peonies, iris, delphinium, phlox, chrysanthemums, and a few others, together with the newer plants given us by the hybridizes . . .such as the daylily that blooms over a five-month period, phlox in amazing colors, and larger improved peonies-give us plant material that provides almost ever blooming borders and no end for the use of our ideas. Contrary to popular belief, perennials are not expensive to grow.
Planning the Perennial Border
A background is a must. Use a hedge, shrub border, a trellis, a fence, or a wall. Perennials prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Choose plants that will give continuous bloom. A good arrangement is tall plants in the back, low ones. in the foreground, and medium ones in the middle with strong accent plants placed irregularly in the middle sections. Plant so as to mass varieties in groups of three to five or more. Consider foliage in this planning.
PERENNIAL PLANTS FROM SEEDS
Many perennials can be propagated from seeds. Follow these steps:
- Prepare a fine seedbed in a cold frame or in the garden. Thoroughly mix into the soil enough humus material and sand to give a friable soil, then mix one tablespoonful of fertilizer per square foot of bed area.
- Sow seed of most perennials in early summer (May or June) in rows 6 inches apart. Cover 3 times the seed diameter with soil sifted over them. Tamp the soil firmly with a flat board after sowing.
- Cover bed with burlap or cheesecloth. Water often, sprinkling through the cover.
- When seedling plants appear above ground, raise cover to about 1 foot high.
- When seedlings are about 6 weeks old, remove shade cover and scratch fertilizer into the soil between rows at the rate of 1 tablespoonful per 3 feet of row, using 1/2 on either side of row.
- In late summer or early fall the plants may be transplanted into a permanent position or put into another bed for further development.
In some cases seeds of perennials may be sown in the fall.
PREPARING PERENNIAL BEDS
- Spade deeply . . . 12 to 15 inches. If some plants are growing in the bed, remove them and “heel” them into a small trench.
- Add humus and drainage material … Stir or break up sub-soil if possible. Perennials do not like “wet feet.” Put drainage material (small rock and gravel) in the bottom of bed. Apply 1 pound of fertilizer to each 25 square feet of bed area. Work plant food into the soil. Turn the hose on the soil bed to hasten settling. After a few days it will be ready for transplanting.
Always fill the planting hole with water immediately after setting plants. Set plants as deeply as possible without covering the crowns. Set low growing plants 6 to 12 inches apart and tall plants at least 2 to 3 feet apart to leave room for cultivation and feeding, as well as for good development. Pack soil around the plant roots firmly and cover with dry soil.
CARE OF ESTABLISHED PERENNIALS
Perennials are heavy feeders and since they stay in one spot for a number of years, they require liberal feeding of complete plant food. Feed established plants early fertilizer in the spring, as soon as they appear above the ground. Use 1 pound (1 pint) of fertilizer per 25 feet of row or 25 square feet of area. Work plant food into the soil around the plants. Feed at the same rate every 8 weeks during the growing season.
INSECT AND DISEASE CONTROL
The regular use of chemicals will control chewing and sucking insects and most fungus disease, preventing damage before it starts.
Alternate freezing and thawing, rather than extreme cold, is the real danger to perennials. In most sections of the United States, beds should be mulched during the winter. Apply mulch after the ground is frozen.