Have you ever visited a garden that just took your breath away and made you wonder how the gardeners could create and maintain something so stunning? Or, have you seen a small and simple garden that seemed “just right”? Large or small, some gardens require more work, but it’s quite possible to have a stunning garden that is easy to maintain and enjoy.
Approachable perennials are easy care, low maintenance, low input, disease resistant, hardy, and hard-working plants. They are not daunting and do not come with a long list of tasks that must be performed to keep them healthy and beautiful. They will work harder for you than you have to for them, all while rewarding you with beautiful gardens.
Keep it simple.
This is the cardinal rule. There will be plenty of time to add new or specimen plants. To make perennial garden design approachable, choose three to five plant varieties and plant in masses. Plant in odd numbers, and space plants close enough together that over three years the plants will grow into each other nicely. This reduces weed growth and lessens the need for expensive and time-consuming mulch.
Consider xeriscaping – this is gardening and landscaping that requires little water input. It is both environmentally friendly and less taxing for the gardener!
Here are a few easy-care perennials to try.
Geraniums – Part sun, drought tolerant. Bigroot varieties handle dry shade (Bevan’s variety)
Nepeta – Part to full sun, low watering. Just chop it down for repeat blooms
Sedum – Drought tolerant, disease resistant.
Allium – Drought tolerant, deer resistant.
Coreopsis – Low water needs, tolerates lean soil.
Hosta – Likes moisture, but handles dry conditions.
Epimedium – Dry shade, deer and rabbit resistant, color-changing foliage.
Tall garden phlox – Full to part sun, drought tolerant.
Liatris – Full sun, drought tolerant.
Black-eyed Susan – drought tolerant, cold hardy.
Salvia – Drought resistant, Caradonna will remain upright.
Purple or white coneflower – drought tolerant, deer resistant. (The red, yellow, and orange varieties tend not to be as hardy, the same is true for the fluffy-top types.)
Russian sage – Drought tolerant.
Yucca – Drought tolerant, striking foliage, stunning bloom.
Yarrow – Sterile varieties include Moonshine, Red Velvet, Seduction series.
Potentilla – Drought tolerant, ground cover, good on slopes.
Shenandoah switchgrass – Water wise, part to full sun, fast growing.
Karl Foerster grass – Full to part sun, drought tolerant.
Japanese forest grass – Full to part shade, disease resistant, drought tolerant.
Stachys – Easy care, drought tolerant, nice habit.
Prairie drop seed – Drought tolerant, mounding habit, easy care.
Beyond just thinking about plants that are easy care while they’re growing, it’s also worth thinking about plants that live well as a community. Planting a successful garden can be as easy as following a recipe. Add too much of something, or the wrong ingredient, and things don’t turn out as well as they could have. The simplest recipes turn out the best.
- Shenandoah switch grass
Plant purple sedum for a more striking effect. Bright yellow daylilies play nicely with the soft bloom colors of allium, and the increasing red color of Shenandoah complements the sedum well.
- Black-eyed Susans
- Prairie dropseed
- Stachys (Pink Cotton Candy or Hummelo)
Coneflowers and black-eyed Susans are always complementary – stick with white or purple coneflowers for greatest success. The upright flower habit and mounding foliage of Stachys pairs nicely with the above two varieties, and the thin blade, mounding foliage of Prairie Dropseed adds a soft touch.
- Japanese forest grass
- Big root geranium (needs part sun)
These will work well in a part sun garden.
Nepeta and yarrow can fill large amounts of space and become a little wild, but the liatris keeps the garden looking clean and tidy and provides a focal point from a distance.
- Caradonna salvia
- Rozanne geranium
- Karl Forester
- David Phlox
- Moonbeam Coreopsis
The upright habit of caradonna salvia pairs especially well with the airy habit of Rozanne geranium.
Any of these recipes could be designed to include more or less plant varieties and could work as a very small or very large garden. Enjoy your gardens!