Perennials for old fashioned gardens


Perennials for old fashioned gardens

Phlox, David

Davidii phlox

In Northfield, we do a lot of landscaping around older homes. I remember when I was younger, my Mom and Dad would take me to Grandma’s house. I’ll never forget how much I enjoyed looking at all the all the flowers in her garden. (A sign of things to come?). Grandma Smith would use a lot of them for flower arranging. Grandpa was a pastor, and she would make arrangements for the church alter every Sunday.

Fern, Ostrich

Ostrich fern

Other than a few shrubs around the front porch, I can’t recall seeing many houses “formally” landscaped back then. But almost everyone had a flower or vegetable garden of some sort.  Anyway, I like to incorporate some of the more old-fashioned varieties of perennials in my landscape plans. With the tremendous rise in popularity of perennials, a lot of new varieties are finding their way to the market, which makes the truly old fashioned perennials harder to find. I think too many of the older homes are over-landscaped,  like they tried too hard too make it look “contemporary”. To my way of thinking, it takes away from the uniqueness of the older home by covering up some of its best features.

Convallaria, Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley

Of course there are the old standbys of peonies, hollyhocks, and lily-of-the-valley, but take a look at the list below. Hopefully, you will find a few that would suite your Grandma’s fancy.

Monarda, Raspberry Wine

Monarda, Raspberry Wine

Beebalm (Monarda),     Aster Bellflower (Campanula), Bleeding-heart (Dicentra),      Blue Bells (Mertensia), Daylily (Hemerocallis),      Delphinium, Forget-me-nots (Myosotis,)      Hollyhock (Althaea), Foloves (Digitalis),      Gas Plant (Dictamnus),      Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema), Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria),     Lupines, (Lupinus), Monkshood (Aconitum),      Pansies (Viola),       Phlox (creeping and standard garden variety),        Ostrich fern,           Sedum (Both groundcover and var. ‘Autumn Joy’),  Peony (Paeonia),      Primrose (Primula),      Tiger Lily (Lilium).





Award -Winning Perennials, part I

Each year, the Perennial Plant Association picks a perennial plant that it feels has the outstanding qualities to be voted Perennial Plant of the Year.  With the global warming, Northfield is on the border between zones 4 and 5, depending on who’s zone map you are looking at. (I like the one put out by the National Arbor Day Foundation, because it uses the most recent data). If  listed as zone 5, I would recommend you start out with a trial plant to see how it performs over a couple of winters. The descriptions below are from the Perennial Plant Association. Next week I will post some of the previous winners, back to 2000.


2011 Amsonia Hubrichtii Plants thrive in full sun to partial shade  This plant performs best in average, moist well-drained soil but tolerates less moisture. Once established, it can tolerate drier conditions.  This perennial for the seasons is an asset in borders, native gardens, cottage gardens, or open woodland areas. It is best when massed. Arkansas blue star is attractive when mixed with ornamental grasses and plants that have attractive seed heads. Light blue flowers in spring are followed by marvelous foliage in summer. Golden-yellow fall color is second to none among herbaceous perennials. Zones 4 to 9



2010   Baptisia Australis. Plants thrive in full sun. Plants grown in partial shade may require staking.SoilThis North American native is easily grown in well-drained soil and is drought tolerant after establishment.   This spring flowering shrub-like perennial may be used to fill the back of the border or in the wild garden. The combination of flower and leaf color is dramatic in the early blooming season. Flowers are followed by inflated seed pods that are useful for dried flower arrangements. HardinessUSDA zones 3-9

2009   Hakonecloa macra Aurea Long-season ornamental grass may be used as a ground cover, a border-front specimen,a mass planting, or in a patio container. The plant offers vivid highlights in shaded areas or in evening gardens.  This grass is also noted for its movement in breezes, offering a cascading or an undulating behavior. Hardiness USDA zones 5-9.  Partial shade is the optimum location in hot climates while more sun is suitable in cooler areas. This ornamental grass prefers moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil.


img[1].jpg2008   “Rozanne” geranium. It has 2 ½ inch, iridescent violet-blue, saucer-shaped flowers with purple-violet veins and radiant white centers. Bloom time is from late spring to mid fall.  20 to 24 inches tall and  28 inches wide.   Best in full sun to partial shade, afternoon shade is advisable in hot climates.  Prefers moist, well-drained soil.   May be used as a dynamic ground cover or as an attractive specimen plant. It is a good companion plant to Shasta daisy, perennial salvia, speedwell, hostas, and short ornamental grasses. Rozanne’senergetic habit makes it a worthy tenant of patio containers, window boxes,and hanging baskets.   The large violet-blue flowers with purple-violet veins and small white centers offer non-stop flowering through the growing season. It has one of the longest flowering periods of any of the hardy geraniums.


2007 Nepata, Walker’s LowNepeta, Walker's Low One of the tougher perennials you will find. Your cats will love this one, as Nepata is also a variety of catmint. Likes full sun tolerates a wide range of soils, and is drought tolerant. Will bloom most of the summer, especially if it gets cut back after it’s first flush of flowers. Grows to about 30″ (not really low unless you compare it to other catmints), attracts butterflies, very fragrant leaves and stems when crushed.


dianthus 06.jpg2006 Dianthus, Firewitch. A great rock garden or edging plant it that is easy to grow. It likes a well drained site in full sun. Tolerant of dry situations once established. An early to mid summer bloomer. Grows to 8″ x 15″ Gray-green foliage makes a nice contrast to the bright pink flowers. Makes quite a show when planted as a mass.