What is a perennial?
The Canadian Oxford dictionary definition of perennial is: Adjective, 1 (of a plant) lasting several years. 2 constantly occurring; recurring (a perennial problem). 3 lasting for a long time (a perennial source of hope). 4 (of a stream) flowing through all seasons of the year.
If you asked me for my personal definition, I would say that a perennial is any plant that grows back on it's own, season after season. An annual is any plant that only survives one season and has to be purchased and planted again each year. I do love the idea of thinking of perennials as something beautiful that lasts for a long time and provides a perennial source of hope. Isn't that a lovely thought?
What are the benefits of perennials?
One of the main benefits of perennials is that they come back every year! You don't have to buy new plants every year and re - plant everything in the spring and clear everything out in the fall. You buy them once, plant them once, and leave them in the ground over winter and they magically pop back up the following spring!
Another benefit is, you don't have to buy a lot of plants to start. You can purchase four of five of your favorite perennials and every few years you can divide them and put them in different spots in your flower bed. Before you know it, you'll have a beautiful, lush garden without having to spend very much money. Most of my perennials came from divisions given to me by friends. I have spent very little money on creating my gardens and you can too!
Perennials are hardy and can deal with some pretty extreme conditions that their beautiful, yet finicky and fragile annual cousins couldn't dream of surviving. Do you have heavy clay soil? There are perennials that thrive in that! Hot, sun baked dried out soil? There are perennials for that too? How about places under giant spruce trees, or sloping hills, or boggy wetlands? There are perennials for EVERY soil condition you can think of. Will they survive severe winds, extreme cold, giant dumps of snow fall and Chinook winds and hot dry summers? Yes, yes, yes! Perennials are tough! They will survive pretty much anything and are adaptable to most soil types. If these plants were finicky and needed a lot of pampering, I would not be a gardener. I'm not into high maintenance anything. I like things simple.
What about watering? Here is another benefit to growing perennials. When you first plant your perennials in the ground, care should be taken to water them good and deep every few days. But after they are established, (by the second season) you only need to water them nice and deep during long dry spells. Other than that, they do really well with just getting rained on. It's amazing how resourceful plants are, and the more you have of them, the better off they do; creating miniature micro climates for each other and nourishing each other through their expansive root systems. Plants really are magical!
How about propagation? Well, perennials are the easiest things in the world to propagate, (make more of). Depending on the type of plant, you can divide them at the base with a spade or shovel, you can take a cutting and start roots in water or with rooting hormone, you can use a technique called layering, you can spread out the runners, you can harvest and sow the seeds if it produces any, or you can leave some seeds on the plant and have it propagate itself, or let the little critters and birds do it for you. That's right; many animals, large and small are great at propagating plants for us. They sometimes carry seeds in their fur, which drops off in random places, or birds often eat the seeds and then poop them out at random, with the added benefit of natural fertilizer attatched to it. If you see little seedlings sprouting out in places where you did not put a plant, simply dig it up and plant it where you want it, or let it grow where it is if your going for a more naturalized look. Thanks nature! You can read more of my posts to learn about techniques on how to divide, propagate and plant perennials.
Last but not really, perennials are absolutely some of the most beautiful plants! I'm not kidding or exaggerating when I tell you, you can design some of the most breathtaking, dream - like gardens, using perennials. Anything you can imagine is possible. Once you learn the plants, their characteristics and their strengths, you will be able to plan, design and create the garden of your dreams!
That's it for now. These are the main reasons why I think perennials are the best in the plant world. Please read my other posts and stay tuned for upcoming posts each week so you can keep learning, keep growing and keep looking forward to that perennial source of hope on your perennial journey.