Designing with Perennials: Low-Maintenance and Eco-Friendly Garden Solutions

Guerrilla gardening is a term that refers to an attempt to beautify public spaces by growing plants, despite the lack of authorization.

A rather innocuous act of rebellion, guerrilla gardening has morphed into the worldwide phenomenon of reclaiming derelict and abandoned spaces. The warriors of guerrilla gardening are often perennials, dropped as seed bombs over fences and then spread through the wind. 

A perennial garden is one of the most enduring garden styles, available in a wealth of textures and floral assortments. Most perennial gardens contain a collection of perennials and annuals that thrive in the local environment.

Although these gardens may seem difficult to plan, perennials are by nature hardy, low-maintenance, and sustainable – and will rebound year-after-year after a wretched winter.  

A well-planned idea will lead to a leisurely garden filled with a steady succession of vibrant color for years to come. Below is a guide on different layout ideas and eco-friendly gardening solutions that can make your perennial garden more aesthetically pleasing. 

Recognize the importance of the big picture 

Layers of perennials showcase a gorgeous spring garden bed | Vego Garden

A successful perennial garden will showcase a steady parade of color, with new blooms replacing wilted ones as they wither and die. Planning a garden will require that you think like an architect – with an emphasis on style, durability, and longevity.

Gardening zones, garden themes, and aesthetics are all factors to consider. For example, relaxation zones on your patio should include aromatic flowers as opposed to malodorous plants like yellow alyssum.

This interactive 3-D planner can help you visualize your garden space while this planning guide provides room to record important dates and other information pertinent to your harvests. 

Factors to consider:

  • Bloom Times
  • Appearance (texture, color, fragrance)
  • Growing requirements (shade, light, soil)
  • Plant height at maturity 

Add structure and style with trellises

Trellises and other elevated structures are often added to perennial beds and vegetable patches to achieve a dramatic, graceful effect. They can also maximize gardening space by allowing extra space to grow vining vegetables. Reminiscent of the Old World glamour of old cottage gardens, an arched trellis is ideal for creating a living walkway of roses and floriferous vines. 

Understand the art of layering         

A beautifully layered garden is both eye-catching and everlasting. Tall plants are grouped in the back to lend depth while shorter plants are positioned upfront to greet the onlooker.

Perennials can grow in spikes, mounds, or cascading ruffles, and can be sculpted into a sweeping swath of color for a dramatic display. Easy-growing perennials can be interplanted with a mix of sturdy annuals to provide a striking display.

Ornamental grasses and shade plants like Sedum Sunsparkler ‘Blue Pearl’ go well with long-stalked perennials such as ‘Millennium’ alliums. 

Incorporate regal statement blooms 

Perennial in bloom | Vego Garden

Bold, singular flowers can add curve and definition to the flatness. 'Princess Victoria Louise' is a beautiful oriental poppy that blooms in an angelic pink hue and would make a lovely addition underneath an arching tree or with low-lying plants such as lavender.

They are also not particularly fussy and will happily grow in areas that more delicate flowers eschew. Foxgloves, irises, and dahlias are all striking flowers that bloom in dazzling scores, like a gaggle of ladies of the Camelot court. As foxgloves can be fatal when ingested, make sure to keep them away from the mouths of children or pets. 

Easily transform your garden with raised beds 

Working on your garden can leave you breathless – and not in a good way. A blank slate can be daunting, and raised garden beds are a great way for you to conquer unruly swaths of sod and transform it into luxuriant flower beds.

Save money with the hügelkultur method, a derivative of sheet mulching that is more eco-friendly and cost-effective. Hugelkutur utilizes woody detritus and organic matter to help speed up the process of decomposition, ensuring that your garden beds will be ready in time for planting. Depleted soil in existing garden beds can also be improved using organic soil amendments

Experiment with color

Early spring perennial

One of the most fun parts of planning a garden is picking which plants to grow.

Like with the old masters, the process may be slow in the making, but the result is well worth it. Weave in complementary colors of purple and gold, blue and red, to make dull areas pop. Experiment with novel shades including fuchsia, chartreuse, and periwinkle. The deep blue of the cardinal flower contrasts with the rustic orange of the coneflower for a classic fall combination. 

Select plants that thrive on neglect 

Tending to your garden in the summer can be a daily challenge. Luckily, there are many plants that can be pitched into the dirt and forgotten.

Beginner gardeners will want to look for drought-tolerant plants, pollinator plants, and other native plants that do not require much maintenance. There are also annuals that reseed vigorously, which means they act like perennials. Yuccas, Solomon’s Seal, and lobelias are virtually maintenance free, with little to no deadheading or pruning.  

Include herbs in your gardens 

Valerian is not only pretty, but medicinal | Vego Garden

Plants can be both deadly or miraculous. Herbs, which fall into the latter, are appreciated for their culinary purposes and medicinal uses.

Many healing herbs flourish alongside native flowers, their rustic textures helping to soften the space. Some, like Valerian root, can be used to treat certain maladies including neuropathy, insomnia, and anxiety.

These herb planters are compact enough to be placed on the patio, where it is easy access to the kitchen door. Or better yet, place them directly on your windowsill with these stylish, self-watering herb planters

Attract pollinators with late-blooming flowers 

Late-blooming flowers will not only offset dull patches – they offer sustenance to migrating pollinators.

Japanese anemones, fairy-like in appearance, are attractive to honeybees; 'Santa Fe' Maximilian's Sunflower is a showy sunflower that produces both quality and quantity; Desert Solstice Hummingbird Mint is a resplendent plant with mauve spikes that conveys the serene beauty of the desert at sunset.  

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