I was asked a very difficult question last week. If I had to choose just five perennials to grow in my currently over-planted, unstructured front garden, which five would I choose? That's hard.
I can still have shrubs, trees, bulbs, even annuals, but just five herbaceous perennials.
Some of what I have in there at the moment (for details see GBBDs passim)
Aster x frikartii 'Monch' - a delight;
Penstemons from pink, through blue to deep purple. I like the fact that they flower forever, but am beginning to find them a bit 'twee';
Verbena bonariensis - hmmm, bit of a pain
Verbena hastata - nice but not something you can plant a drift of;
Sedum - several. Worth it just for the butterflies and bees.
Alchemilla mollis. Love the acid green colour of the new growth but never get round to dead heading it before it sets seed. Consequently everywhere;
Dierama - delicate flowers with hidden depths but scruffy (probably my fault);
Self sown poppies - fun and flouncy for a while;
Asters - nice and bright late autumn colour but they die ugly;
Nepeta - appreciated by the cats, who splat it;
Perovskia - hmmm.
Japanese anemones - lovely flowers but rather frisky. I've grown them in clumps but better off as individual plants, I think.
Geraniums - the ones I have are too low growing and just sprawl on the floor, like a drunken student, but there are others which would do a better job;
Ooohhhh, my beautiful, beautiful peony. Gorgeous but a bit like a firework - anticipation followed by a brief spectacular bang, then the equivalent of the stick left in the milk bottle for the rest of the year. Actually that's a bit harsh, as the foliage is nice if rather nondescript;
Aquilegias - always a surprise what they'll flower like as they're more promiscuous than [insert appropriate bawdy comment here];
Solomon's Seal (at least until the sawflies get to it);
There are lots more individuals, shoehorned in. So, a real rag-tag mix. No "unity". I'm rather attached to many of the above list, but would any make it to a list of five? I think I would have to save Aster 'Monch', as it flowers for ever and would look good with a lot of plants. The sedums make it onto the list, too, for their butterfly attracting abilities, their nice shape and I love the way their new growth peaks through in the spring. As for the others? I'm not so sure, so there are three gaps in my list. A grass such as Stipa? It would add movement, and it feels so nice.
What is your 'must have' perennial?