Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Famous five

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?


My Dirty Life said...

I did try to think of a perennial flower, i really did try but the first plant that popped into my head was asparagus.I am very weak.

Today it will be my aim to snap out of veg and come up with my favourite non veg perennial. Will come back later with an answer, which my RHS lecturer will be proud of.

Trisha xx said...

Impossible question! Your front garden sounds like plant heaven. I think I wouldn't want a garden without they class as perennial?

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

My 'must have'perennial? All of them as I don't do lists. ;-)

Dierama I haven't tried before, worth my while, you think?

Anonymous said...

This is just impossible, Happy. I had this assignment earlier in the year and cheated a little. If interested, click:

The Six Degrees Of Favorite Plants


Please forgive the link. It is just to show how difficult a task it would be to narrow it down. :-)

Helen said...

So few things will grow in the dry, sandy shade of my front garden that it might be easy to narrow it down to five... especially if one of them starts with the letter "hosta." Boring but true. Lady's mantle also works for me, but I need to be thinking in swaths not dots.

The photo in your header is lovely -- am I right in thinking it's 'Monch'?

easygardener said...

I would say a grass but that is as far as I could go. I can never come up with a list or a design - that would require discipline and casting plants aside...impossible for me!

Anna said...

Will have to sleep on this one. Will be looking at geraniums in a different light now :)

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I don't think I could have a garden without hellebores and then I would be stuck between argutifolius, foetidus and the orientalis hybrids.
Definitely need hardy geraniums too, particularly Ann Folkard.
Then I will have echinacea and would also have your alchemilla and aster.
Then I would go away and buy bulbs madly.

Plant Mad Nige said...

My five 'must have' perennials, straight off the top of my head:

Lathyrus vernus
Verbena bonariensis
Aster x frikartii Moench
Geranium 'Jolly Bee.'
Aconitum carmichaelii 'Sparkes Variety'

Well goodness me - they all turn out to be purple of blue. What does that mean?

Tomorrow, I'd probably type a different five! That's just how it is.

Oh - veggies, by the way: Asparagus is beautiful but what about artichokes, cardoons and chicory? Gorgeous!

Wendy said...

well, I havne't tried nearly as many as you have, and there are probably different "catagories"t aht I would put perennials in - like beauty, foundation plants, relability, etc. but what always catches my eye as I drive home is the perovskia. I think that's a must.

I've got to try some of the plants on your list.

I totally agree about the peonies!

Nutty Gnome said...

I have been thinking really hard about this and, true to course, my brain has gone completely blank!!!
Leave it with me........

Rosie Nixon Fluerty said...

My one choice would be a heuchera - Peach Flambe or Creme brulee - good colour 12 months of the year

HappyMouffetard said...

Very belated replies to your comments:

AVDRHSS (catchy name!): we have asparagus down the allotment. we do have cardoons in the front garden though, which are allegedly edible.

Trisha - irises I like, and they would lend some much needed spikiness.

Yolanda, I understand. My list is never-ending, but I think it needs judicious pruning. The Dierama flowers are beautiful but the leaves can get a bit untidy.

frances - thanks for the link!

Helen, I love hostas but not as much as the snails do, so they are banished. It is indeed Monch at the top.

EG - grasses would be good.

Anna :) I look forward to any ideas you come up with.

Elizabeth, we have lots of hellebores in the back garden. Totally agree with your choices.

Nigel, I have lots of blues etc at the moment so the more the merrier. TYhat Aconitum is a beautiful colour.

Wendy, I do like Perovskia but not the way I've got it at the moment - my problem, not the plants.

NG - I look forward to your thoughts.

Leavesnbloom - I can be partial to a heuchera but not so keen on the creme brulee types, I'm afraid. But they do indeed give good colour through the year.

Dawn/LittleGreenFingers said...

The ones I use again and again are:
Verbena bonariensis
Heuchera 'Obsidian'
Knautia macedonica
Stachys 'Silver Carpet'
Alchemilla mollis

Not sure they're really the most elegant or beautiful but they are all incredibly tough and useful which are admirable qualities in plants (and men for that matter).

Dawn/LittleGreenFingers said...

The ones I use again and again are:
Verbena bonariensis
Heuchera 'Obsidian'
Knautia macedonica
Stachys 'Silver Carpet'
Alchemilla mollis

Not sure they're really the most elegant or beautiful but they are all incredibly tough and useful which are admirable qualities in plants (and men for that matter).