The growing interest in perennials

The idea is to have not only continuous colour, but also stunning highlights all through our gardens, Brian Minter writes.

Iris pumilas are one of the most delightful early spring perennials.

Iris pumilas are one of the most delightful early spring perennials.

Today, the interest in and use of perennials in our gardens is phenomenal. They are a wonderful garden investment, but many folks are missing out on their ability to provide colour almost year round.  Perennials should be used to create a continuous flow of colour throughout the year, and by selecting combinations that include evergreen foliage, long-blooming plants and varieties that bloom at specific times, perennials can provide that lift we all need, even in the winter months.  We should also be using them in combination with other flowering shrubs and conifers for a knockout showing.  The idea is to have not only continuous colour, but also stunning highlights all through our gardens.

The traditional plantings of white arabis (rockcress), purple aubrieta and yellow Saxatile alyssum, still remain the most outstanding colour combination for early spring.  These plants are ideal as a low ground cover or as border plants.  They also work well in flowerbeds.  To accent these plantings and to keep the colour going, try using heucheras with their rich purple, hot lime, tan and orange foliage, the new bergenias, like ‘Bressingham Ruby’ or the new evergreen euphorbias with their stunning foliage and chartreuse flowers spikes that last for weeks.

Dwarf Iris pumilas do not flower for more than a few weeks, but they are one of the most delightful early spring perennials.  Reaching only six to eight inches in height, this unique early-flowering iris makes a fine ground cover, and it often flowers again in late fall.  Available in white, purple, yellow and blue, and used in combination plantings, it is a real knockout.  Surround these irises with silver wooly thyme for an absolute stunning display.

Iberis, (candytuft) is one of the more outstanding white flowering early perennials.  Here again, the varieties from cuttings are far superior to the seedling varieties.  Growing only six inches in height, these plants smother the ground in a carpet of white for at least a month.  Planted together with deep red heathers, like ‘Nathalie’ or ‘Kramer’s Red’, or for later colour with ‘Hino Crimson’ Japanese azaleas, both combinations will create long lasting and beautiful displays in an early spring garden.  Surround them with low-growing, colourful conifers, like Thuja ‘Rheingold’ for an even more beautiful show or the very dark-foliaged heucheras, like H.‘Obsidian’, to create a ‘wow’ display.

Pulmonarias are one of the forgotten garden heroes that we need to rediscover.  Our grandmothers grew these plants, but somehow we lost interest.  Today’s new varieties have stunning silver, mildew-free foliage that will liven up any shady garden or morning sun location.  They are evergreen, and as a backdrop for the blue colouring of early crocuses, grape hyacinths and scillas, they are pure magic.  Look for varieties like P. longifolia, ‘Majeste’, ‘David Ward’,‘Excalibur’ and ‘Baby Blue Eyes’.

Originating in Turkey, omphalode is a hardy, beautiful, low-spreading perennial with stunning blue flowers.  Omphalode ‘Cherry Ingram’ blooms at the same time as Star magnolias.  Together, blue omphalodes and pure white star magnolias make a stunning display in any garden.

There are many, many other early-flowering perennials that are unique. Now is a great time to visit your local garden shops to see some of the old reliables, as well as a host of new and interesting perennials.  The secret to bringing your garden alive is to blend all your plants into exciting combinations of foliage and flowers that will add interest all year round.

Just Posted

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
Student’s quote in Chilliwack high school yearbook equates graduation with end of slavery

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for missing 20-year-old woman

Police say Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months

RCMP seek dash-cam footage after Chilliwack road rage incident

Male driving a black pickup stopped and allegedly threatened to punch another driver

Doses prepared at pop-up vaccine clinic in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood, in the M3N postal code, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. ( THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston)
4 vaccine clinics coming to Neighbourhood Learning Centre

Fraser Health made clinics ‘low-barrier’ meaning pre-registration not required

Deepak Sharma of Abbotsford has been convicted of the sexual assault of one of his cab passengers in West Vancouver in January 2019.
Former Abbotsford Hindu temple president convicted of sexual assault

Deepak Sharma assaulted a female passenger when he was a cab driver

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

Most Read