I love a garden that’s full of colour. The simple pleasure of meandering through a garden bursting with different hues gives me a warm glow, brightening my spirits on even the dullest of days. This is as good as therapy, in my opinion, and far more accessible when you get the planting spot-on. Perennial flowers that bloom from spring to fall are the secret of achieving long-lasting garden colour.
The key to successful year-round garden colour is to be specific about your plant choices. I’m sure you’ll agree that every plant has its merits. That said, there are many perennial plants out there that literally bring a garden to life throughout the seasons. They provide diversity and interest through colour, texture, form and foliage.
These are the gems that we’re going to be talking about today. They work their magic alongside trees, shrubs, biennials, annuals and bulbs, resulting in a succession of spectacular displays throughout the seasons with relatively little maintenance. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Let’s take a look at the best options. With a bit of planning, you can incorporate your favourites into your own garden design.
Choose “Rudbeckia laciniata Herbstonne” for a tall, showy specimen that’s perfect at the back of a border. Its large, lemon yellow, daisy-like flower heads stand up to 2 metres tall on giant branching stems throughout the summer months. This is a clump-forming, deciduous beauty that will need adequate staking as it matures.
An alternative to the above is the Rudbeckia fulgida “Goldsturm”. Positively small in comparison at just 60 cm tall, it packs a colorful punch. Your garden will be blessed with masses of orange-yellow, daisy-like flowers lasting through the seasons. Also known as the “Cone Flower”, this is a memorable favourite to brighten any border.
Also known as “Beardtongue”, the trusty penstemon is a familiar friend to many cottage gardens. Their bell-like flowers add interesting textures to your yard, and they come in a wide variety of colors. Below are a few of my favorites. All are clump-forming and suitable for planting at the front of your beds with show-stopping color.
“P. Pensham Just Jayne” – A robust variety with quite large, lovely, deep cerise-pink flowers.
“P. Raven” – This well-known variety has large, deep, purple, bell-shaped flowers.
“P. Garnet” – A good, upright grower with narrow, elegant leaves, and deep wine-red flowers. This is the hardiest of all the penstemon, and will need staking for support.
“P. Snow Storm” – Previously named “White Bedder”, this is a commonly used, pure white variety with a nice bushy form.
My new favorite for long summertime color, this flower is ideal for planting in pots and borders. Coreopsis can be short-lived—it usually only lasts for around 3 years. Despite this, these flowers are well worth the investment and bring brightness and joy to the garden. They’re clump-forming perennials and relatives of the “Aster” family, with good self-seeding abilities.
“Moonlight” – As the name suggests, this boasts moonlight-yellow, daisy-like flowers. It can grow up to around 20 inches tall, and its blooms are complimented by bright green foliage.
“Grandiflora” – A sturdier plant variety growing to about 24 inches, with large golden-yellow flower heads.
“Early Sunrise” – I have this semi-double flowered variety in pretty much every area of my garden, and it never disappoints. Growing to around 18 inches tall, it has large bobble-headed, bright yellow flowers amidst bright green foliage. This plant brings me a little bit of sunshine every day.
There are many great, frost-hardy Salvia varieties available that will bloom all summer long. The ones I have listed below are a few of the best:
“Blue Hill” – Commonly known as the “Meadow Sage”. This tough, fearless bloomer has the truest of all blue flower spires. Prune it back in late summer so it can re-bloom in Autumn.
“May Night” – This perennial “Garden Sage” is an award-winning performer with deep violet-purple flower spikes. It would be an excellent addition to a gothic garden.
“Amistad” – A tall, dark beauty with large regal purple flower spikes and near-black bracts. Can be frost-tender in some places.
“Silas Dyson” – A shrubby variety with dark wine-purple flower buds. These will open to a rich crimson colour, and mature to a deeper shade of red. It’s hardy in most areas with prolific flowering, and will eventually reach a height of around 90 cm.
The Centraurea montana is otherwise known as the “Perennial Cornflower”. This is a hardy, evergreen staple plant for many cottage gardens. With its hairy textured grey-green foliage and a succession of purple-blue, thistle-like flower heads, the Cornflower is a clump-forming, easy-to-grow self-seeder. It’s known to reach heights of up to 70 cm.
In every garden I have ever worked in, there has always been at least one variety of Geranium. Its easy to care for, and is practically maintenance-free qualities. As such, this humble plant remains at the top of the list of free-flowering families. There are many well-known varieties that continue to live up to expectation, and I’ve listed a couple of the best below.
“Rozanne” – Also known as the “Jolly Bee Geranium”, this is the most prolific flowering of all the geraniums. Their big, beautiful sky- blue, cup-shaped flowers have a white centre and dark purple veins. This is all set amid tufty, mid-green foliage that has a naturally spreading form. This is an essential ground cover plant which is a vigorous grower and will reach a top height of around 20″ tall.
“Dusky Rose” – A very pretty colour combination. It has deep chocolate-burgundy foliage and pale baby-pink flowers. Smaller than the previous variety, this unusual low-spreading mound of delicious colours has smaller flowers and a slightly trailing habit. Good for use in pots, it only grows to 30 cm. Therefore, it’s a really unusual, attractive addition at the front of a sunny or partly shaded bed.
Better known as the “Perennial Wallflower” and every gardener’s firm favorite. The Erysimum “Bowles’s Mauve” is a semi-evergreen perennial that has an exceptionally long flowering period. It grows to around 60 cm in both height and spread.
A member of the Wallflower family and fully frost-hardy. This plant offers mounds of simple violet flowers amongst smooth bright green foliage. As a result, the flowers are highly attractive to wildlife and nectar-loving insects. As if you needed another reason to incorporate this pretty perennial into your garden.
The Euphorbia brings a diverse flower structure into the garden. Along with the well-known varieties, other such as “E. martinii Ascot Rainbow”, (which has the most beautiful contrasting scarlet red and lime green colors), and “E. Black Pearl”, (which has a prominent black eye in centre of each acid-green bloom), are slightly more unique and last the season through. Here are another couple of special Euphorbia to consider:
“Redwing Charam” – This is a new hybrid variety with a mound-forming, compact form. Narrow leaves turn from green to red in late winter, and tall acid-green flower bracts open in spring. Growing up to 50 cm, this is a frost-hardy perennial with toxic sap-filled stems, likely to cause irritation.
“Portuguese Velvet” – Another compact perennial growing to around 60 cm with velvety grey-green foliage. Cylindrical clusters of bright, acid-green, dark-eyed flowers on long stems. Being evergreen, this Euphorbia provides year-round interest and is easy to grow in almost any soil. Beware though: the sap held within the plant is toxic. Plant it well away from pets and small children.
Better known as “Lady’s Mantle”, this is a commonly used ornamental ground cover plant with slightly textured, bright green foliage. This plant boasts pretty yellow flower clusters atop slender stems. Grows to around 45 cm tall and known for being a reliable self-seeder.
Finally, I couldn’t leave out the Verbena varieties which make an effortless show of lasting colour in every garden.
“bonariensis” – A prolific self-seeding variety that brings bobbing purple flower heads to any flower bed, in any soil. Growing to 1.2 metres with stout stems and nettle-like deep green leaves. Most noteworthy, I still have this Verbena flowering in November amongst the Stipla grasses and Miscanthus.
hastata “Rosea” – A slightly different form to the previous. The “Rosea” is fully frost-hardy with slender, branching spires of upright lilac pink flowers. In addition, this delicate, structural plant is ideal to use for floral height at the back of any border.
hastata “Alba” – A white version of the Verbena “Rosea” with tall upright branching stems and clusters of pure white flower spires. Both these varieties grow to around 1.2 metres in all sorts of soils.
Hopefully these have given you some great ideas as to how to incorporate more color into your space. Many of these flowers come in a variety of different hues and forms. As such, you can choose which ones best suit the scheme you’ve chosen for your garden design.
It’s important to incorporate perennial flowers that bloom from spring to fall. From May through November, you’ll have a garden full of color, and armfuls of beautiful blooms for your indoor vases as well.