Do you come home from the flower shop or garden centre every spring with a basket or car boot full of annual plants? Naturally we’re delighted, but here’s a tip: if you plant some perennials as well, you can enjoy them year after year. The summer-flowering Echinacea, Phlox and Delphinium, for example. Plant them once, enjoy colour summer after summer.
So what are perennials?
Perennials are a bit different from annuals. As the name suggests, annuals just bloom for one year. You enjoy everything they have to offer, and when they’ve finished flowering they can retire from the scene. They can’t cope with frost, for instance, so you just buy new ones in the spring. Examples include Mandevilla, African daisy and sunflowers. Perennials are a bit sturdier. You plant them and then they flower year after year. Echinacea, Phlox and Delphinium, the Garden Plants of the Month for June, are examples of perennials that bloom in summer.
Echinacea, Phlox and Delphinium
Echinacea, also known as coneflower, has a green or orange head surrounded by drooping petals that come in salmon, ochre, deep purple, dark red or white.
Phlox can be identified by its sweet fragrance and beautiful white, deep purple, blue and pink flowers with a red heart. There are even flowers with striped petals.
Delphinium (larkspur) has stately elongated flowers. If you look carefully at the tiny flowers on the plumes, you can spot the ‘spurs’ that a cowboy - or possibly a lark? - would wear.
Caring for summer flowering perennials
And when it has finished flowering? If you prune the plants in late summer they might flower for a second time in autumn. The plants will die back above ground during winter, and hibernate below ground. They might look a bit sad, but everything will be fine. Leave the withered parts on the plant to protect them against extreme winter conditions. Remove the dead parts at the end of February so that the plant starts to grow again in the spring, and then it will bloom beautifully in summer. Echinacea, Phlox and Delphinium are back!
Annuals are also known as bedding plants. Or did you know that already?