A beautiful perennial garden is seemingly the stuff of fairy tales and royal residences. When we picture flower beds, we usually see an array of colorful blooms that are most likely the blooms of perennial flowers. Gorgeous English and French gardens are filled with purple coneflowers, pink foxglove and red astilbe.
We don’t have royal gardens in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. But we can design and install a beautiful perennial garden bed or border that rivals any botanical paradise across the pond.
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What is a perennial garden?
Perennial flowers are flowers that come back every year without having to replant them or do any extra work. When you choose native perennials for your designs, they’re especially strong and hardy.
When they’re dormant, perennial flowers and stems die back. Some of them can provide interest in the winter, as well as seeds or berries for winter wildlife visitors. Then, when the growing season returns, entirely new flowers shoot up to put on a new show.
Preparing a perennial garden
Before deciding whether or not to use perennials in your flower bed designs, you need to make sure that your soil has proper drainage. If your soil stays saturated with water for long periods of time, you can amend the soil or create a raised flower bed. To test your soil, dig a hole about six inches deep, then fill it with water. Wait a day, and then fill it with water again. All the water should be absorbed by the soil within ten hours. If the hole isn’t completely dry, you’ll need to talk with your landscape designer or gardener about amending the soil or building a raised bed.
Choosing perennial flowers
Choosing the right perennials for your Lancaster flower beds can be an overwhelming task. Your goal should be to have a variety of plants that bloom during different times of the year. Talk with your landscape designer about the different colors you want in your design. They can create a timeline for which perennial will flower when. When they create the right plan, you will have a different show of color for every season, spring, summer and fall.
Your landscape designer or garden should be able to find custom seed blends or perennials that are native to Lancaster. Usually these blends or plants are hardy for our Lancaster climate, which means your perennial garden will be healthy and strong.
Don’t forget mulch
Your perennial garden design should include a thick layer of mulch. This will reduce your maintenance time by reducing the number of weeds that pop up and by increasing the bed’s water retention. Your gardener or landscape designer will know which mulch is best for your perennial garden. Mulch is graded by quality and by how quickly it breaks down. For instance, wood chunks will take longer to break down than shredded bark and compost.
Review the landscape design
You don’t want to crowd your perennial bed with too many flowers and plants. Pay attention to each plant’s full size and the recommended distance between each plant. Your landscape designer will be able to work with you to make sure each plant is the right height and width for the look you want to achieve. If your perennials are planted too close together, they will choke each other out. But if they’re spread too far apart, your bed will look sparse. Talk to your designer about the difference between how the bed looks when it’s first planted, versus how it will look in full bloom.
Armed with this knowledge, you and your landscape designer will be able to plan and install beautiful a beautiful perennial garden that you can enjoy year-round.