Perennials bring year-round gardening joy

My life is filled with plants.

In the nursery I have thousands of them. In my garden probably hundreds. They range from trees to shrubs to ground covering perennials, bulbs and annuals. I love them all, some more than others, but they all bring me great joy at various times of the year.

This time of the year I get the greatest joy from my perennials. Here is why:

Perennials are permanent plants that come back every spring. While some may be short lived and others a tad aggressive, most of them are very well behaved, gaining a little girth each season and becoming more substantial as time goes on until it is impossible to imagine the garden without them.

For me, perennials give the same kind of excitement as opening a Christmas present. There is the anticipation of what lies inside the wrapping, or in the case of perennials, what lies just under the surface of the ground in early spring. You know there is something special down there just waiting to wake up and spring to life.

There are perennials for the shade, the sun, moisture lovers, drought lovers, early, mid and late bloomers. Ones with evergreen foliage, ones that melt away at the first frost, tall ones, short ones, skinny ones and fat ones. There is a perennial for almost any nook or cranny in the garden.

You can find a perennial that blooms every month of the year. No, let me rephrase that. For every month of the year, there is a perennial that blooms. While most individual perennials only bloom five to six weeks, you can have year round color by selecting early, mid and late bloomers. All it takes is a visit to the garden center every month and a modest $10 purchase.

Perennials bring change to a garden. Unlike a shrub that provides structure but little seasonal variation, perennials can start at ground zero in the spring and be 6 feet tall by September, all the while changing their impact on the overall design of the garden. It is this constant reshaping that draws me out into the yard almost daily to see what looks different and to evaluate my compositions. There is never a dull moment in a garden filled with perennials.

While there are early, mid and late blooming perennials, by far the largest group of bloomers is in the summer which for us is late July and August. This is “high season” for perennials and there is no better time to see what’s out there than now. Gardeners that only shop in April and May are missing the boat. And for the record, it is perfectly fine to plant this time of year, just make sure you water-in your plants thoroughly.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Send your gardening questions to him at

Summer perennials

Trevor Cameron will teach a class on “Perfect Perennials for Summer” is at 10 a.m. July 30. For more information, go to

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