Friday Favorites: Garden Perennials (A - L)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring is officially here and weather in the Midwest this week has me itching to be outside. Gardening runs in my genes. My great-grandmother, for whom I am named, her daughter, my paternal grandma, and my father were all gifted gardeners. They turned backyards into beautiful havens; places of vibrant color and accessible retreats. From a young age I remember wandering nurseries and watching my dad select plants for our yard. He turned barren spaces into flourishing beds with hard work and a natural talent. As any gardener knows, spending a fortune on a few flats of flowers or buckets of shrubs is the detriment of feeding a passion. During college and whenever I'd move to a new apartment I'd try to plant a couple bulbs or perennials to ensure I could leave a little marker that would remain long after I was gone. After college I worked for a season at a local nursery in Salt Lake City. My first task was planting hundreds of daylily starts into gallon containers in the corner of a cold muddy greenhouse. As the season warmed I soon started placing weekly orders and learning what plants worked best in a dessert climate and in specific growing conditions. Currently, I've been turning the earth in my first community vegetable garden. And even though I don't currently have a yard of my own, that doesn't stop me from frequenting nurseries and dreaming about the landscape I hope to create one day. In anticipation of that future, here are some of my favorite lesser-known perennials that I can't wait to include in my landscape.* 

top left Agastache (Giant Hyssop), top right Centaurea cyanus (Bachelor's Button/Cornflower)
bottom left Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter's beard), bottom right Gaura (beeblossom)

I love how when your rub your hand gently up the stalk of hyssop your hand smells like root beer for awhile afterwards. Cornflowers will always make me think of A Room with a View, plus they are edible. Which makes them a perfect garnish for cakes or a colorful addition to any summer salad. Jupiter's beard gives a garden great height and the colors can last into the autumn. Gaura is wispy and magical; just its name makes me happy. 

top left Gaillardia (blanket flower), top right Helleborus (lenten rose) 
bottom left Heuchera (coral bells), bottom right Lupinus (lupin)

Certain varieties of blanket flower contain little individual flowers around the center. Adorable. The low growing flower is perfect next to the low growing helleborus. (Although helleborus like a bit more shade.) Coral bells are star performers. They have the most fascinating leaves— everything from lime green to deep wine burgundy. This plant's fantastic foliage is truly stunning. Finally, tall stocks of pink, white, and purple lupin cover Prince Edward Island for the entire month of July. But you can also find them mentioned in this children's book. I think because we had lupin (among many other plants) in my backyard when I grew up, I've always had a fondness for these regal garden dames.

Now that you know a few more plant names be on the lookout for them. To me, identifying plants makes wandering my neighborhood or visiting a botanic garden a little more meaningful. Happy Spring!

* Conditions and space permitting there will, of course, also be forsythia, hostas, delphinium, iris, echinacea, lilacs, liatris and if the soil is right azaleas and hydrangeas. 

All images courtesy of Flickr CC. 


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