Long-blooming perennials

Many gardeners today are lured into the seductive world of perennials without anyone letting them in on gardening’s shameful little secret: Most perennial flowers don’t bloom all that longsometimes only two or three weeks, and then pfft. In the nation’s shift from annual bedding gardens to beds and borders landscaped in herbaceous perennials, some first-timers are caught short with transitional dead spots in their yard, sometimes for weeks on end. This, of course, does not have to be.

By planting such long-blooming perennials as the Butterfly Blue pincushion flower (see previas page), gardeners can have enduring plants that flower-as does this remarkable pincushion, or scabiosa-from spring until frost. While other long bloomers don’t bloom quite that long, you should be able to count on a minimum of six to eight weeks for each plant recommended here. The purpleflowering East Friesland salvia (near right) is another worthy subject. Do a little mixing-and-matching of the various high-performance perennials and you’ll have wall-to-wall flowers throughout the growing season.

Hybrid yarrow

The cream yellow Moonshine achillea, or yarrow (far left) and its yellow-yellow cousin Coronation Gold (near left) are middle- or backof-the-border plants. The grayish foliage is attractively fernlike; the flower heads stunning. Plant in full sun.

Bloom time Throughout summer

Plant heights Moonshine-2 feet Coronation Gold-3 feet Gaura

Angelic little flowers climb swaying wands which grow longer and longer during the season-producing more and more wee angels. Bonus: The white flowers fade to pink, and the gray-green leaves can turn brilliant red come fall. Full sun to part shade.

Bloom time Late spring to fall

Plant height 3 to 4 feet

Zagreb coreopsis You may already know the pale yellow Moonbeam variety of coreopsis/ Zagreb is its showier golder incarnation. Full sun to light shade.

Bloom time Summer to fall

Plant height 15 inches

Dropmore Scarlet honeysuckle

This handsome vine has a multitude of trumpet flowers-scentless, unfortunately-that attract hummingbirds. Bonus: berries. Full sun to part shade.

Bloom time summer through fall

Plant height 15 to 20 feet Red valerian

Bushy clumps of centranthus naturalize freely, so watch its spread. Full sun.

Bloom time Early summer to fall

Plant height 2 to 3 feet

Verbena bonariensis

This strikingly vertical tender perennial sows itself. Invasive where hardy. Sun

Bloom time Midsummer through fall

Plant height 3 to 4 feet Luxuriant bleeding-heart

this fringed dicentra is a ferny-looking wildflower. Unlike many other woodland bloomers, Luxuriant’s foliage does not die back in summer but remains gray-green and perky until frost Full to light shade.

Bloom time spring and fall

Plant height 15 inches

Hybrid Lenten rose

These hellebores need a little babying the first year or two as they settle in, but the results are more than rewarding elegant flowers just as winter wears out its welcomoe. Bonus: In most climates, the foliage is evergreen. Full to light shade.

Bloom time Late winter through spring

Plant height 18 inches

Carydalis lutea

Yellow is a tough color to find in a shade lover, but this lacy-leafed delight will brighten almost any darkened nook with its pastel blossoms. Corydalis is another vigorous grower, which makes it easy to use as cascading filler in a stone wall. Full to light shade.

Bloom time Spring through fall

Plant height 15 inches

Gardener’s Almanac

The Mighty Sword may speak of dese to you, but they say perennial beds to number of advent gardeners. We like variegated forms such as Yucca filamentosa Golden Sword (right) and Bright Edge. They’re evergreen, with standing 25-below-zero temps and nasty winter winds. It’s quite striking to see a yucca’s warm your window on a day to venture out. Its strong spiky form integrates into a mixed border without overpowering its neighbors. Try it up front, with rudbeckias. Bonus: a mature plant will send up a spire of creamy white flowers.

New Garden Hose

Wind can push a young tree around if it’s top-heavy or bottom-light. Here’s support with no chafing. Drive two stakes in the ground outside the root ball, and loop a pair of nylons-twisted into figure eightfrom the tree to each stake. Staple the nylons to the stakes at about half the height of the tree. Remove stakes and straps in a year.

A Boy-or Twoand His Garden

Michael plants themed vegetable gardens in a massive 30×60 raised bed. Andrew landscapes a corner his mother reserved for him in their backyard. Two boys, two gardens, one passion.

Variegated yuccas can withstand the heat of the deep South and the cold of the deep show. They’re also drought-tolerant.

Using strechy nylons to support bare-root saplings and young conifers allows for some give.

Michael Maksem of Waukee, Iowa, went to Disneyworld and came back a gardener. Maybe it wasn’t the flowers so much at first as the fact that he devised plans to charge a nickel for tours of his garden-to-be. That first year he planted a rainbow garden with many multicolored fruits and vegetables. Then he planted a Wizard of Oz garden with a poppy "field" and a witch going up in dusty-miller "smoke." Naturally there was a scarecrow. For Michael’s Jack-in-the-Beanstalk garden, he grew a sunflower that topped out at 12 feet. "It’s, like, higher than your house," he says.

Andrew Skogrand of Portland, Oregon, started off in "just a ribbon of dirt" in the shade, says his mother, Pam Lamirande. But he grew more ambitious-and his vocabulary grew, too. "I wanted a sun garden because there was one plant I really wanted: the Euphorbia Characias wulfenii." Say what? "If you know the Latin name and someone asks you what it is, you don’t just say, ‘Oh, it’s a nice one, isn’t it?’ and look stupid."

Veggies on View

The Farmer Michael Maksem began gardening at age 42. His latest plans for a themed vegetable garden involve Cinderella and a large white pumpkin.

"Gardening just comes to him naturally, says his mom, Mary Kay Maksem. Michael’s plot is organized For growth (near right. To reach his sunflowers next year (far right), "I’ll need a bigger ladder." The Landscaper "I admired Mom’s Rowers, says Andrew Skogrand."The astilbe looked like feathers, and the variegated Japanese fern looked like it had been snowed on

There is certainly no shame in having a vegetable garden, so if you are lucky enough to have the space for one, don’t feel you have to hide it. Pat Collins of Portland, Oregon, lives on a corner lot, and the only place she could squeeze in her veggies was between the sidewalk and her driveway. Her food isn’t out front but it’s not out of view either. Pat has made these beds attractive and neighborly, proving once again that vegetable gardens are not inherently ugly. She even plants a window box with cucumbers and radishes. Her little streetside farm was so handsome that her neighbor encouraged Pat to put some herbs in the ground they share between their drives.

Rising to the Job

Bulbs act as transitional plantings, providing a burst of color in early spring, before most perennials make a show. But these February Gold narcissus (left) do this and a lot more. They echo the yellows in the bracts of the Euphorbia martin and in the needles of the Chamaecyparis pisifera Filifera Aurea (splendid plants in and of themselves, by the way). The narcissus’ spiky and erect silhouette complements the mounding fluff of purple foliage and the arching sprays of the evergreen. And the yellow-yellow flowers put bold color in the blank spaces where the euphorbia-a perennial sometimes called cushion spurge-has yet to fill out.