As a professional gardener, I often get asked what my favorite perennials and annuals are. I have favorites of both. For those that don’t know the difference, perennials come back every year and annuals must be planted new each year after the danger of frost has passed in the spring. I have favourites of each for different conditions in my garden.
For full sun, hot and dry conditions, I am very fond of ornamental grasses; there are many varieties, both annual and perennial, that range from short to very tall in height, all with different seed heads, colors, and leaf shapes:
Most require very little care, simply cut back the perennial ones to a few inches early in the spring, before new growth appears. If you don’t like the appearance of the brown, dead-looking grass in the off-season, you can cut the plant back in the fall instead, but I like the look of the grass in the winter landscape. The annual variety dies as soon as frost arrives in the fall/winter, simply pull it out and discard it.
My new favorite perennial this summer is Russian Sage. It blooms from July to October, with wispy pale purple flower stalks and fine, lacy leaves. It is absolutely gorgeous and requires very little maintenance.
Russian Sage is also very easy to care for in your garden, in fact pruning is only necessary if the plant gets out of shape, which it rarely does. If you do wish to cut it back, do so in spring, but wait until the new growth greens up. Do not cut into the old wood. Russian Sage, like the ornamental grasses, also likes full sun and hot, dry conditions.
In part sun areas of your garden, my favorite perennial plant would be a geranium. Not the annual red or white geraniums of your grandmother’s day that you put in planters each spring (these are my least favorite annuals) but the hardy perennial variety. They come in many sizes and colors including blue, pink, purple, white, and magenta; all do well in part sun and part shade, some even tolerate full shade. This picture shows only one of the many varieties available:
Another favorite part sun to shade perennial plant is sedge, which looks like a short version of the ornamental grasses mentioned above, but prefers moist soil and tolerates part to full shade.
My favorite annual plant continues to be cleome, although zinnias are becoming a new favourite.
In the bulb category, alliums are my favourite. They are planted in the fall for a spectacular display in the spring and early summer. They do multiply, so you don’t have to replant every year, unless you want to add more clumps of them. They too like hot dry conditions in the garden. To keep the squirrels from eating them on you, plant daffodil bulbs around the allium bulbs; squirrels hate daffodils! Alliums come in blue, white, and my all-time favorite, purple:
Although I have not met many plants I do not like, I have decided recently that my least favorite is the purple sand cherry, known for its deep red/purple colored leaves. It tends to look good for a few years, after which it tends to become leggy and out of control if not pruned hard and often. I have encountered quite a few in the overgrown, neglected gardens I have restored this season; all were difficult to restore. An easier alternative to the purple sand cherry would be a ninebark, weigela, barberry, or black lace elderberry, pictured below in that order, all available in many varieties, and all with that nice, deep red coloring to contrast with all the green in your garden:
Of course, these are MY favorite perennials and annuals, I’m sure you all have your own. Please feel free to share!