Each spring when the perennial plants begin to make their appearance it is comparable to getting together with longtime friends. They look a little different than you remembered them. Some are larger and some are smaller.
The Yarrow at the entrance to the 9th and Broadway parking lot in downtown Shawnee was planted by several Master Gardener class members in about 2002. It was a single plant that has returned and expanded over the last 17 years. Once the blooms begin to wither in a few weeks they will be cut back, leaving a shrub like appearance. Later in the summer a less robust group of blooms will emerge. This bed depends on rainfall for most of its moisture and these plants are just fine with that. The frequent rains this spring have caused excessive growth that will be managed when pruned back. There are other varieties that have red or salmon pink blooms. (This bed was included in the first off campus filming of OSU’s “Oklahoma Gardening” television show along with a garden in Seminole and the Barrett Garden on Union Street.)
Garden Phlox is a perennial that fits well at the rear of yards to serve as a back drop for other shorter plants. Our plants grow to about 4 feet tall and bloom until frost. They serve as a nice back ground for cone flowers, blanket flowers, small lilies and daisies.
In a shady area the Lenten Rose plants, botanical name, Helebore, kick off the season with their blooms beginning in early February. Ours have pink blooms but other varieties feature different colors. The blooms gradually fade to cream and eventually wither. I removed them this weekend. Also included in this bed on the east side of the house which is heavily shaded by a pecan tree is a massive planting of ajuga, a ground cover that has gradually grown to about 6 ft. in diameter. It features bluish purple spikes of blooms beginning in March continuing through April. Eventually the flowers fade and if not cut off will finally wither away. The outer plants continue to seek more space! The nicest part of this planting is that it can be seen through the east windows of our dining areas, with a bird feeder and hanging plants to enhance the view.
Thread Leaf Coreopsis borders a bed on the south side of the garage. Its foliage is fern-like and it features small yellow blooms that continue throughout most of the summer. It is backed by various types of lilies planted between boxwood shrubs.
If you are looking for plant ideas, visit the Pottawatomie County OSU Extension Office grounds on Acme Road at the intersection with West MacArthur Street. There you will see ornamental grasses at the Acme Road entrance, many annuals and perennials in the Butterfly Garden plus numerous shrubs and perennials along the sidewalks that surround the building, all labeled with plant names. The grounds are open for visitors seven days a week during daylight hours.
The nice part of having perennials in addition to shrubs is that the expense of planting the yard in the spring is less. I have to be careful not to be seduced by the beautiful annuals and perennials available in the garden shops each year and then have to look for a place to plant the ones I can’t resist.