Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Rocky Mountains
January, 2004
Regional Report

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Creeping phlox makes an eye-catching, spring carpet at the feet of taller perennials.

Perennial Combinations

Planting a flower garden that will thrive for years is a growing passion among Rocky Mountain gardeners. The idea of a perennial garden brings to mind a popular definition of a perennial that states, "A perennial is any herbaceous plant that, had it lived, would have come back year after year." While this definition may bring a smile to veteran gardeners, it often misrepresents perennials as temperamental and challenging to grow.

The word perennial comes from Latin, meaning "enduring" or "perpetual." Even though the top portion of many herbaceous perennials dies back in winter, the roots remain alive, and plants will awaken when conditions are suitable for growth.

Perennials offer Rocky Mountain gardeners a tremendous variety of colors, heights, bloom times, shapes, sizes, flower forms, and foliage colors. But you don't need to be intimidated by the vast numbers of varieties. Start out planting a combination of the tried-and-true plants listed below to build your gardening confidence. Later you can branch out into some of the more exotic offerings.

Perennials tend to have fairly short blooming times, so if you want a garden that flowers from spring through fall, you need to choose plants that will succeed each other in blooming times. The plants that are recommended for this full-sun garden will provide a succession of color, from early spring-flowering crocus and daffodils, to bearded iris of late spring, to summer-blooming 'Hyperion' daylilies, to late summer and early fall blooms of Aster 'Professor Kippenberg', and finally the brightly colored autumn flowers of Chrysanthemum 'Clara Curtis'. Many of the plants have attractive foliage, so you'll enjoy their pleasing textures and colors along with the flowers.

Before you plant a perennial garden, make sure your site and soil are suitable. Excellent drainage is a must. Although many perennials tolerate moisture in spring and summer when they're actively growing, soils that stay too wet in fall and winter can quickly rot them. So avoid planting in low, wet areas with poor drainage. You might want to consider building a raised bed that contains 8 inches or more of good, porous garden soil.

A Perennial List
Here a suggested list of plants that grow well together and go well together, along with the suggested number to plant.

5 Basket of gold (Aurinia saxatilis)
6 Golden feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum')
3 Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata)
12 Yellow Johnny-jump-up, (Viola tricolor)
4-5 Sweet william 'Frosted Crimson' (Dianthus barbatus)
5 Painted daisy 'James Kelway' (Chrysanthemum coccineum)
5 Clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata)
6 Aster 'Professor Kippenburg' (Aster dumosus)
3 Shasta daisy, 'Polaris' or 'Alaska' (Chrysanthemum maximum)
1 Daylily 'Hyperion' (Hemerocallis x hybrida)
3 Single, pink hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
3 Tall, purple bearded iris (Iris germanica)

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