The Natural Garden: Plant Perfect Perennials

One of my favorite gardening designs consists of the naturalistic garden. This type of garden not only incorporates the use of trees and shrubs, but wildflowers and native grasses as well, along with a variety of perennial plants that can blend in quite nicely. An added bonus with a natural garden is the fact that you can easily transform this into a garden for all seasons.

It doesn’t take a genius to design a natural garden; however, some planning beforehand might be wise. First, become familiar with the different types of native plants that may already be growing on your property. This will make it easier when you begin choosing additional flowers for the garden as it gives you an idea of the types of plants that thrive in your particular location. You always want to ensure that any chosen plant will flourish in its new environment as well as complement the surrounding landscape. Creating a natural perennial garden that is full of seasonal interest from spring through winter entails the simple planning and placement of long-lasting bloomers with an array of foliage plants as well as the occasional focal point for further interest. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area surrounded by woodlands, this type of garden will look right at home.

Try not to overlook the plant’s leaves when choosing perennials for a natural garden. While flowers make the garden intense with color, the foliage can provide impressive contrast and texture. This additional interest draws attention to the area, inviting others into the garden for a closer look, especially during non-blooming periods. However, if you carefully select plants with various flowering seasons and incorporate them alongside other foliage plants, there will always be something continually in bloom. When it comes to foliage plants, there are many to choose from. Some of my personal favorites include ferns, hostas, and liriope mixed with bluebells and Siberian iris; Artemisia intermingled with asters and purple coneflowers; or lamb’s ear planted next to sedum and a variety of iris.

Plant spring-flowering perennials throughout the garden; but take care to keep them toward the middle or further towards the back. This will allow you the opportunity to easily hide them with cover-up plants (such as hosta, daylily, or Russian sage) once their blooms have faded. Popular spring bloomers include iris, phlox, anemone, sweet violet, and Virginia bluebells. Summer-flowering plants such as campanula, Shasta daisy, flax, golden star, and goat’s beard will take over once the spring blooms have faded away. Use these as camouflage to create nonstop flowering. Ever-lasting perennials such as Russian sage, yarrow, and salvia will also guarantee a succession of blooms while helping to promote seasonal interest during the months to follow.

Once autumn arrives, your natural garden will maintain its appeal with the addition of fall-flowering perennials. Asters and chrysanthemums produce compact plants with continual blooming, if pinched, and both are available in a variety of colors. Goldenrods are extremely hardy; and during autumn, will provide beautiful gold and yellow blooms. Many cool-season annuals work well in a natural garden such as snapdragons, pot marigolds, and pansies. Bulbs such as lilies, autumn crocus, and cyclamen also do well here. Once flowering bulbs and other plants begin to fade, the intense shades of leaf and foliage color create a stunning display. For instance, the bronze-colored stalks of gayfeathers (liatris) can be quite striking. This color can be further enhanced among a background of evergreens. Evergreens and groundcovers will liven up the landscape with various shades of color. For example, ajuga cultivars with purple or bronze foliage make lovely additions. Besides amazing color, plants having various forms and textures will maintain the garden’s appeal. Trees and shrubs help to achieve this. Don’t look over the interesting characteristics of bark in a natural garden. Trees or shrubs that have peeling or patterned bark can be quite captivating. While ornamental grasses usually reach their peak during fall, they can also provide additional texture and color in winter with interesting seed heads and foliage. Winter wonder also comes from the colorful seed heads of blue false indigo, purple coneflower, and sedum. And although flowers may be scarce during winter, berries are abundant, offering another benefit by providing food to wildlife at a time when it may otherwise be scarce.

Garden accessories such as benches, water and stone features, urns, statues and other ornamental objects placed sparingly throughout the natural garden will draw attention as well, enhancing its natural beauty. By keeping plants within the natural scheme of your own landscape and incorporating a variety of seasonal bloomers into the garden, you can enjoy nonstop flowering in a naturalistic setting every day of the year.

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