Perennials combine well with shrubs and grasses; seen here gazanias, felicia, plumbago, scabiosa, proteas and aloe spp.  Picture: Lukas Otto
Perennials combine well with shrubs and grasses; seen here gazanias, felicia, plumbago, scabiosa, proteas and aloe spp. Picture: Lukas Otto
Salvia 'Black and Blue', is a large, woody perennial. Picture: Lukas Otto
Salvia 'Black and Blue', is a large, woody perennial. Picture: Lukas Otto
Perennials can be used successfully in small gardens to add colour. Picture: Kay Montgomery
Perennials can be used successfully in small gardens to add colour. Picture: Kay Montgomery
Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' is an indigenous perennial. Picture: Lukas Otto
Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' is an indigenous perennial. Picture: Lukas Otto
Shorter varieties of day lilies are best planted in front of the border. Picture: Lukas Otto
Shorter varieties of day lilies are best planted in front of the border. Picture: Lukas Otto
A raised border planted up with nasturtium and blue forget-me-nots. Picture: Supplied
A raised border planted up with nasturtium and blue forget-me-nots. Picture: Supplied
Day lilies are ideal candidates for a mixed border. Picture: Lukas Otto
Day lilies are ideal candidates for a mixed border. Picture: Lukas Otto

Cape Town - Many of the flowers that bloom in spring are perennials, plants that re-appear year after year.

Apart from their wonderful variety of flower colour and texture, perennials offer great diversity in growth habits and in flowers.

Perennials have many benefits in the garden. They don’t need replacing every year and are ideal for low maintenance gardens. They are very versatile plants, filling in a need for continuity in the garden. They also provide nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies and seeds for birds.

Perennials have an extensive range in shape, colour and height. Some are evergreen, while others die down after flowering. There are exotic and indigenous perennials that flower at different seasons in sun or shade; some are colourful and fragrant, others have a variety of textures and shapes. Water requirements also differ; those with minimal requirements are particularly suitable for today’s gardens.

Grow perennials singly or in groups, as accent plants or as background, in borders, rockeries or in containers. They are accommodating and combine well with annuals, bulbs, shrubs, ornamental grasses and exotic perennials.

 

Planting and care

Perennials need to be properly planted to give them a good start. When planting, allow plenty of space for plants to spread, and for light and air. This will prevent weak, spindly growth. Thorough digging to a depth of 35-45cm is recommended, as most perennials have a deep root system. Incorporate generous amounts of compost, well-rotted manure and superphosphate.

When watering, make sure the water penetrates down to the root area. Most perennials need dividing every three or four years.

 

Perennials for the border

Salvia “Mystic Spires” is an evergreen perennial with a compact growth habit and long spires of dark blue flowers that attract butterflies. Salvia farinacea “Victoria” has upright flower spikes of indigo-blue flowers and flowers from spring into autumn. Salvia “Black and Blue” grows about a metre tall and has anise-scented leaves.

Two perennials that will colour the border throughout summer are angelonia with small snapdragon-like blooms in lavender, pink, purple and white, and penstemon with gloxinia-like white, pink, red, lavender or purple flowers and broad or narrow leaves. Both need fertile, well-drained soil, full sun or morning sun and afternoon shade in hot gardens, and will flower in autumn if old flower spikes are removed.

Day lilies are useful and reliable perennials flowering from spring through summer and into autumn. Grow short varieties in the front of borders and edging paths, and medium to tall ones in the border. In a small garden, day lilies of one colour or of similar shades have the most impact. Day lilies are also attractive near water features or among ornamental grasses.

Shasta daisies are appreciated for their white single or double flowers that have long-lasting qualities in the garden and as cut flowers. The dwarf form makes an attractive permanent edging next to paths. The flowers are supported by strong stems that are able to withstand wind. Given good quality soil, a sunny location and regular deadheading, shasta daisies can remain in one place for a number of years.

Giant statice (Limonium perezii) from the Canary Islands has umbrella-like heads of violet-blue and white papery flowers on sturdy stems. The flowers are long-lasting in the garden and make excellent cut flowers for fresh and dry floral arrangements. A good choice for mixed borders, rockeries, water wise gardens and landscaping large areas.

 

Indigenous perennials

There are many indigenous perennials to colour your garden throughout the seasons. You might decide on a colour scheme of yellow and blue with euryops, Strelitzia “Mandela’s Gold”, agapanthus, felicia, bulbine and arctotis.

Mauve and pink are easy to achieve colour schemes in the garden and the pretty pincushion flowers of Scabiosa incisa and lower growing Scabious “Butterfly Blue and ‘”Butterfly Pink” combine well with mauve Polygala fruticosa “Petite Butterfly” and its taller relative “Purple Butterfly”, Arctotis “Rose” and lavender diascia.

Indigenous perennial groundcovers are useful for stabilising sandy soil, and include agapanthus, yellow and orange bulbine, mauve tulbaghia, Chlorophytum saundersiae with arching grass-like leaves and tiny white starry flowers, and variegated hen-and-chickens, Chlorophytum comosum.

Geranium incanum, with finely-cut foliage and magenta cup-shaped flowers, spreads a dainty carpet among taller growers. Tulbaghia violacea is a perennial that has strap-like green leaves and mauve flowers in spring. Tulbaghia will grow in partial shade under trees, on banks or as an edging, and needs little maintenance.

Known by the more familiar name of scented geraniums, these indigenous perennials are increasingly being used as ornamentals and groundcovers in the garden because of their attractive leaf shapes and scents.

Rose-scented Pelargonium graveolens and peppermint P tomentosum have a low, spreading growth habit; lemon scented P citronellum is upright, sending up short stalks and small, curly leaves, while apple scented P odoratissimum forms compact, sometimes trailing mounds. The nutmeg geranium (P fragrans) is a charming little plant with grey-green, silky rounded leaves, a spice scent and white lacy blooms.

Kay Montgomery, Weekend Argus