Efficient Perennial Maintenance

Plan First to Efficiently Maintain Perennials

The following are a few tips on developing a strategy plan to maintain your perennial plants more efficiently.

Graceful drifts of perennials greet visitors at the entrance garden to the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden and School of Horticulture in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.

Graceful drifts of perennials greet visitors at the entrance garden to the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden and School of Horticulture in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.

• Draw a sketch or plan of each perennial bed or border. Indicate each plant on a scaled drawing. The time that it takes to create this valuable plan will be well spent when garden revisions are being done. Use this plan to record your ideas while they are still fresh.
• Take pictures of the garden during each season. Although this is often the lowest priority item on your “to do” list, pictures are essential to help recreate the ideas noted on your plan. This is particularly helpful if you are redesigning your perennial garden in the winter.
• Keep records of each plant’s characteristics. Draft a chart of their height, width, flower colour, blooming time, and blooming duration. Include a final column on the chart where notes can be added about other attributes.
• Before a maintenance plan can be created for the garden, some research is necessary. Add several maintenance categories to your plant charts. Include propagation records (division, layering, cuttings, seeded), staking, deadheading, pest and disease problems.
• Be observant in the garden. Take note of any plants that are showing signs of unhealthy growth and try to find out why.
• If you wish to lower the amount of maintenance required for your perennials, try using perennial groundcovers such as Ajuga, Alchemilla, Aubrieta, and Geraniums. These cover an area with their thick leaves and keep out weeds. Also to lower maintenance -don’t fuss with your plants. If a clump of candytuft needs deadheading- use hedge shears to get the job done faster.
• Plant in groups or masses of odd numbers. Groups of plants will be better suited to keep out the weeds and will be faster to maintain. Many smaller groups of diverse plants will require more time to maintain.
• Consider the timing of your activities. By deadheading (removing the finished flowers) candytuft before the seeds are dispersed, the plant does not selfseeding. A weeding job has just been eliminated.
• Accomplish as many tasks as your time and the plants will allow. Think of what will need to be done to maintain your perennials before your can return to the garden and do it now. Think about anticipating “must do” tasks that are on the horizon. Staking a plant before it needs staking is much easier than doing it after it has blown over.
• No time to spend time? Don’t use plants that need lots of TLC in your garden. These are the finicky plants that have to have special soil, precision watering, constant grooming and copious pest control to look good. If you are short on time to maintain perennials do not use these plants.

Here’s a list of tough, durable, easy care perennials for a sunny location:
• Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), zone 4-8
• Campanula carpatica (Carpathian Bellflower), zone 3-8
• Cerastium tomentosum (Snow in Summer), zone 3-8
• Coreopsis grandiflora (Tickseed), zone zone 3-10
• Echinops ritro (Globe Thistle), zone 3-8
• Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), zone 3-10
• Gaillardia grandiflora (Blanketflower), zone 3-10
• Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox), zone 3-9
• Rudbeckia fulgida (Showy Coneflower), zone 3-9
• Sedum and Sempervivum species (Stonecrop and Hens & Chickens), zone 3-10

Schedule your perennial maintenance activities and prioritize your work. Group your perennial garden activities into three categories.
1) Things that must be done in the perennial garden so that plant will survive. These include watering, weeding, and pest control.
2) Things that should be done in the perennial garden but are not absolutely critical to the plants health. These are fertilizing, mulching, and fall clean up.
3) Things that might be done in the perennial garden but are definitely not critical to the plants health. These include deadheading, shearing, pinching, cutting back, staking, thinning, dividing, moving, and winter protection.

How much time do you want to spend on each of these categories? Will this change with the time of year? Throughout the season keep track of the activities that fit into each category. Evaluate these categories at the end of one season. Do you need to change your priorities?

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