I love all plants, really, but the ones I love most of all are the herbaceous perennials. They seem to be the plants that are best equipped to deal with the climate here on the western edge of the New South Wales Central Tablelands where the temperatures can reach forty degrees plus in the summer, and descend to minus seven in the winter. Many perennials are also quite drought hardy as well, so cope with our lengthy dry spells without demanding too much precious water.
As our long chilly winter comes to a close and slowly the sun creeps higher in the sky each day, something almost magical occurs in my rather dreary frost-hammered garden. Small sharp bulb leaves make their appearance followed quite quickly by buds and soon the first flowers of spring appear.
Not long afterwards other shoots emerge from dry uninteresting-looking clumps and become rather larger leaves, rapidly developing into loose shrubby plants . These are herbaceous perennials, those undemanding obliging plants that lie dormant during winter and suddenly come to life as the weather warms up, developing their flowers and putting on a show that lasts all the way through to the next autumn. What amazing plants they are. They will fill any corner of the garden in any kind of soil, and are often drought hardy as well. I have seen them droop on a 36 degree day, but after a night's rest, they are sprightly and ready to face the new day. There are hundreds of different perennials. A feature of many of the perennials is that they will grow from a cutting with the most amazing ease and so it's often only necessary to buy one plant which can then be made into many.
I have stocked my garden with salvias, ranging in colour from pure white through yellow to pink and many shades of blue; the excellent agastache, a relative of mint; Russian sage (perovskia atriplicifolia), agapanthus, california tree poppy (romneya), echinops, day lilies, eryngium, Shasta daisies and society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). I’m also very fond of the allium species which multiply and appear year after year. These plants all grow happily here, flowering from October until at least the end of March, slowly dying back as the first frosts come. I give them a vigorous trim in January as they have a tendency to become straggly, and in no time they are in full flower again.
In July, I cut my perennials right down to the ground, as the owners of Hillandale do, mentioned in an earlier post Hillandale, and this allows room for bulbs to emerge, and when the bulbs have finished, like magic, the perennials start their growing spell again, ready for another summer blooming.
I have some favourites:
Left to right, from top to bottom:
Romneya Coulteri; Allium 'Drumstick'; Agastache 'Sweet Lili' with Salvia 'Indigo Spires behind; Echinops; Russian sage with white salvia in foreground; Salvia 'Amistad' .