Gardening Tips: Perennials

— Written By and last updated by Chrissy Poole

June is Perennial Gardening Month in the United States. Perennials, plants that come back year after year, are important components of quality landscapes. Each year beginning in 1990, the members of the Perennial Plant Association have selected a perennial plant of the year. These are selected based on a number of criteria. First, they must be able to grow in a wide range of climates within the United States. Second, they must be relatively free of disease and insect problems. Third, plants must be low maintenance and easy to grow. Fourth, they must be easy to propagate either by cuttings, division, or true-to-type seed. Fifth, the plant must be readily available in nurseries and garden stores at the time of its selection. Finally, the plants must exhibit multi-season interest.
Many of the plants selected as perennial of the year have become staples in the landscape: ‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis, ‘Magnus’ coneflower, ‘Goldstrum’ black-eyed Susan just to name a few. But several of the newest selections are not as well known to gardeners and are worthy of greater use.
2010’s selection was Baptisia australis, one of my favorite plants. Baptisia is valued for it’s tall spike of light blue flowers early in spring. The plant itself grows about 2 feet tall and wide, with the flowers stretching another foot above the foliage. It is tolerant of dry, sandy soils, prefers full sun, and it’s large dark seed pods are often used in arrangements.
In 2011, Amsonia hubrichtii, known commonly as Arkansas blue star was chosen. This plant also has blue flowers in spring, and has light delicate foliage that is attractive throughout the summer before turning golden yellow in fall. It is well suited to moist soils, but will also tolerate drier conditions.
2012’s choice for plant of the year was Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’. This is an excellent shade plant, yet another choice that has blue flowers, however Brunnera is equally valued for it’s variegated white and green foliage as it is for it’s blooms. This plant is an excellent alternative to hostas, ferns, and other often overused shade perennials, but it will suffer if planted in areas with too much sun.
This year’s selection, variegated Solomon’s seal, is another plant that thrives in shade and is valued for it’s variegated foliage. Solomon’s seal also has a delicate white flower late in spring, and the leaves add extra interest in the fall when they turn yellow.
On Wednesday June 19th, the Halifax County Cattlemen’s Association will be holding their annual Beef Roast Sale, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Halifax County Agricultural Center. Whole roasts (approximately 15 pounds) are $45 each, and individual plates (about half a pound of beef on a hoagie roll, with chips, slaw, and a drink) are $8 each. Whole roasts must be bought in advance. For tickets or more information please contact Cattlemen’s association president Scott West at 578-5674 or Halifax County Cooperative Extension at 583-5161.

Matthew Stevens is the horticulture extension agent for Halifax County Cooperative Extension. If you have any questions about this article or other aspects of your home gardening, please contact Matthew at 583-5161 or matt_stevens@ncsu.edu