No-Fuss Perennial Flower Gardening

No-fuss perennial flower gardens may be a busy gardener's best friend. The idea of planting once, then standing by as a lovely garden emerges year after year, is pretty tempting. While a perennial garden is fairly maintenance-free once it's established, it will require occasional attention.

Native species and common perennials

If you select perennials that are native to your region, you will automatically avoid many problems. These plants are likely adapted to local extremes and naturally resistant to the pests in your area. Native perennials require far less water and may thrive with very little attention. Start with a visit to your county extension service, garden shop, or botanical garden to get ideas.

Some perennial favorites for summer include daisies, coreopsis, Asian lilies and daylilies, larkspur, and phlox. Don't limit yourself to summer, though. Add spring bulbs, such as daffodils, jonquils, and crocus. Autumn mums and asters will prolong the show until frost. Perennial vines, such as clematis, can be dramatic, easy to grow, and have a long bloom season. Fall-blooming clematis is showy and quite fragrant. Consider the dramatic effect of well-placed ornamental grasses, too.

Walkways and focal points

Plan walkways to allow room for you to tend your garden, and harvest blossoms for bouquets. A winding path is preferable if you have the space and should lead to some surprise area, such as a garden bench or fountain. Mulch your paths with pea gravel or wood chips.

Use large stones for dramatic accents and to help keep soil moist and cool. Stones with a few indentations will be the perfect spot for butterflies to light and take a few sips of water.

Routine maintenance

Weeds will still slip in, despite your best plans, but routine pulling will prevent weeds from becoming a problem. Use pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to control weeds and mulch to suppress their growth. To keep your garden blooming for the summer, remove spent blossoms before they go to seed. At summer's end allow seed heads to form.

Benefits and drawbacks of perennials

One benefit is the fact that planting perennials gives years of pleasure without further work. You can develop your garden slowly, rather than replanting each year. This saves time and money, although purchasing perennials initially can be slightly more expensive. Reduce the cost by being patient and dividing your plants after the first few years. Or find garden buddies who will share when they need to divide their plants.

Dividing is the one drawback for many gardeners. Some plants are rather prolific and need to be dug and divided every few years. Usually this is a pleasure, as most gardeners see this as "free plants" they use to expand their garden or to share with friends. But if digging clumps of roots doesn't sound like your idea of fun, you will need to choose carefully -- or hire the job out.

No-fuss perennial gardening in containers, too

While the selection may be a bit limited, you can still enjoy some of the benefits of perennials. Simply prune back foliage, move the containers into a dark garage or basement for the winter, and leave them until spring. Begin watering in late winter or early spring. You are essentially providing a dormant period. It's fun to experiment and see what plants will return. Geraniums, Gerbera daisies, mums, and even some flowering vines such as jasmine will respond to this kind of treatment.

While perennial gardening is not entirely maintenance-free, with careful planning and plant selections it can come very close!

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