For the green thumbs among us, nothing quite beats the onset of spring as we begin browsing seed catalogs, walking through nurseries and envisioning those colorful blossoms erupting in our own outdoor secret gardens. As soon as the weather starts warming up, you'll see flats of annuals appearing. And while annuals are great, often inexpensive and a way to add quick color and fill to your flower beds and garden, they aren't here to stay.
Plan long-term and invest a little bit more money, and you'll have a garden that will come back to bless you year after year. Perennials tend to be costlier in terms of the purchase price, off-puttiing for the budget-conscious gardener. But keep in mind that with perennials, you won't have to re-invest that money next spring. Rather, you'll have a garden already growing with perennials that expands every year. Here are some of the best perennials to invest in for a garden that won't let you down.
Daylily (hemerocallis hybrids): In my part of the country, there are daylilies (mainly orange ones) growing rampantly in ditches and along fences in the summer. Daylilies are easy to find. You should be able to snag them at any garden center or nursery, or just at your local megopolis store that happens to sell garden stuff in spring time. Easy on the budget, these babies will spread in the area you give them and then some, bursting out with lots of color and lush green foliage all summer long.
Peony (paeonia): My hands-down favorite in the flowering perennial category, the peony is a lovely, luscious, fragrant, old-fashioned flower that looks wonderfully modern in a simple glass vase. Buy peony plants at your local nursery, where it pays to pay extra for a good plant. Peonies will spread, politely, die back in winter and flourish in spring. Fabulous for cut flowers; fabulous for a fragrant greeting by the front door.
Forsythia (forsythia x intermedia): For a burst of bright color in early spring, the forsythia is your best friend. This shrub will stay with you, grow up to eight feet tall and herald spring with electric-yellow flowers up and down every stem. Some folks like to clip their forsythia into neat little shapes, but I love them a little wild and unkempt around the edges, with that billowing roll of branches morphing from yellow in spring to cool green all summer.
Pampas Grass (cortaderia selloana): When is a hedge not a hedge? When it's a row of stately, flowing pampas grass. Never have dignity and flexibility combined so well. These beauties will start off small but quickly grow to an eight foot spread and equal height, so give them plenty of growing space in a sunny area. Line them down the driveway, along the fence row or around anything you need hidden. Use them as a windbreak, a hedge, a virtual wall or a privacy screen.
Hosta (hosta): Though hostas will flower in summer, and the tall, purple flowers are gorgeous, it's the greenery I value most in these hardy, shade-loving plants. They make you feel cool on a hot summer's day, and the variety of shades and variegation available within the hosta genus is enough to keep you busy for awhile. Use these as filler around trees, along the edge of flower beds, under taller plants and in any moist or shady area that needs some love. They will grow and spread happily.
Image: Andrew Morell Photography.