If reduced to ten plants around which to plan the gardening season, which would I choose?

This post is based on the one I wrote for my blog, but I think I would stand by the thoughts written in 2004.This isn’t based upon the criteria of “what I liked the most” in a favorite plant, bloom, or season, but in what I think are the most useful, satisfyingly attractive, perennial plants for the typical home garden in the Midwest.

I have greatly appreciated the old stalwarts, those flowers which make the focus of certain seasons in the garden and which tend to longevity. “Stalwart” was a term I think I picked up from Helen Van Pelt Wilson’s “PERENNIALS PREFERRED”, or maybe that old book, “THE ROCKWELLS COMPLETE GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL GARDENING”. It referred to tried and true perennials that created a seasonal focus. Not all the plants on my list qualify as worthy of the season’s focus, but most of them do. What does qualify them for the short list of great plants is how good they make your garden look.

  1. Roses always will top the list. They now come in such landscape worthy shapes of hardiness and disease-resistant types that roses can be thought of as easy to grow and having long season good looks.
  2. Peonies, make the May/June garden. Fragrant, blowsy, and perfect for arrangements in the house.
  3. Lilies are something I would plant more of, from Asiatics to the new Orienpets. They fill June/July with bright color and fragrance, especially some of the new “Orienpets”.
  4. Rudbeckias, like the variety ‘Guldsturm’ tend to be overdone, but their easy growth and golden daisies provide color in even the hottest summer heat (for the North, anyway), so I would always like some of them in the garden.
  5. Hostas are gaining in popularity. And I think everyone needs some hostas, which have beautiful flowers on graceful stems as well as their famed foliage.
  6. Smaller flowers are sometimes overlooked, but Campanula carpatica is a useful, sturdy, blue flowering cushion.
  7. I have come to really appreciate Scabiosas. Another blue, graceful and free-flowering. I also grew a pale yellow one, but the blue rates the top ten place.
  8. Daylilies are in a class by themselves for usefulness. Many are fragrant, and free-flowering, they come in lots of colors, but the yellows are always wonderful.
  9. Siberian Iris replaces all the German types in my opinion. Not as showy, but far more graceful and lots less work. the German iris has been the classic choice for iris time in the garden, but my favorites have always been the Siberica
  10. Chrysanthemums have to end the season. You can turn your nose up at them, but nothing else gives as much hardy color in the fall garden. I would be tempted to say Flowering Kale….but it simply is not as versatile or colorful as the mums. On its side it lasts through frosts and freeze, but, no, Chrysanthemums stand in the top ten. They are easy to grow and propagate and they have all sorts of interesting forms and pretty colors.
old picture of my border

old picture of my border

If you have each of these perennials in the garden you will have something blooming throughout the season. These plants can serve as centerpieces of a seasonal garden for the time they are in bloom… or in the case of a foliage plant like the hostas, to an all season shade garden.

Most of the perennials in my list are choices for the sunny border, a few are good for part-sun. Take your pick of any one of them for your own landscape situation and build a plan around it. I don’t think these perennials will disappoint or be anything but perennial joy in your garden.

Other pages that might interest you from Ilona’s Garden Journal, my blog:
5 Top Hosta Choices
Ten AUTUMN features