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A Classic Perennial Garden

I Would Like To Plant A Perennial Garden Using As Many Authentic Old-Fashioned Plants As Possible. What Should I Plant?
By Jay Mclaren


The interest in heritage plants has certainly grown. In spite of all of the many improvements that plant breeders have made to plants over the years, many gardeners still prefer the old favorites.

Many of the original plants that were grown in the gardens of early settlers where just wild flowers that were moved out of the woodlands and pasture lands. Many of those became favorites over the years and have been cultivated for garden use. In addition, many varieties of plants came with settlers from their homeland. As a result, our early heritage gardens became a mix of a number of native plants and introduced plants.

Certainly, one of the standard perennials for heritage gardens is the daisy. These smaller flowered native plants do not have the zest that the improved varieties do. However, among the Shasta Daisy family are two or three different sized daisies. The Shasta Daisy that is commonly grown is the 30 - 36 inch variety that is excellent for cut flowers. There is a double variety called Marconi that is also an attractive variation on the native plant. Bergamont or Bee Balm is another popular selection. This, in modern day varieties is available as a pink, lavender or a red flowering variety. It is an excellent plant to attract bees and hummingbirds. In the Black-eyed Susan family there are a number of perennials that can be found. The other common name for Black-eyed Susan is Cone Flower or Rudbeckia. Of all of the varieties available the Goldsturm is one of the most popular. Of course there are many to choice from in our modern day selections.

Another old favorite, introduced from the wild is the Columbine. This old-fashioned perennial is now available in many colours and sizes. It is one of those plants that will grow in partial shade and has a unique distinctive flower. The species Canadensis or Wild Red Columbine is a North American Native wildflower. Many homesteads had the familiar Day Lily in abundance. In fact, a drive through some of the back roads of Ontario, even today, will find Day Lilies naturalized in ditches or around foundations of old homesteads. The species Fulva is the old common variety. With modernized breeding the selection of Day Lilies has been greatly improved so that there is an abundance of colour and height available. As well, the longevity of the blossoms has been improved.

Combine any of these traditional old favorites with some of the newer and improved perennials selections to get the best results from a perennial border. Perennials require the careful planning and selection of varieties so that a continuous show of colour is available from early spring to late fall.