Every spring we come home from the garden centre with a car boot full of annual summer flowers. This year, though, we're looking at perennials as well. Treated right, they will flower year after year, making them a sustainable, long-term investment for your garden. We suggest starting with Echinacea, Phlox and Delphinium, as all three flower beautifully in the summertime.
What are perennials?
Perennials are sturdy plants that will flower year after year. Echinacea, phlox, delphinium and others only need to be planted once, and they will reliably bud and bloom each time the warm weather comes round. That's what separates them from annuals, also known as bedding plants, which are slighly more fragile plants that bloom for just one season. Good examples of annuals include Mandevilla, African daisy and sunflowers.
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. The flowers are evenly spaced, with striped petals.
- Delphinium has stately elongated flowers. If you look carefully at the tiny flowers on the plumes, you can spot the spur-shaped caps, that gave this flower the common name of larkspur.
Caring for summer flowering perennials
In late summer, when the plants' flowers are over, prune them back to encourage a second flowering in autumn. During winter, the plants hibernate below ground, which means they die back above ground. They might look a bit withered, but resist the temptation to trim them back, as the yellowed parts help protect the plants against extreme weather conditions. Then, at the end of February, cut back the dead foliage, so that the plants begin to grow in springtime. Feed them while they grow, and they will flower when summer rolls around again.