Skip to content

COLUMN: Time, trial and error make for a lovely perennial garden

Make sure to research plants; buy for Zone 3.
Charles Schroder
Columnist Charles Schroder

While many gardeners buy pots of annuals at the local market garden, others prefer perennials because of their variety and beauty year after year. I will talk about my favourites.

There are a few simple rules to follow.

Start! A perennial garden evolves over time. If you don’t like the location of a plant, you can dig it up and move it. Start small and by a process of trial and error your garden will evolve into a place of beauty.

Perennials thrive best in soil that is deep, and well drained, with lots of compost.

Research each perennial and determine how large it will become and leave enough space for it to grow. Before the perennial reaches its final size, plant annuals in the bare dirt around it.

Research bloom times and locate your plants so one or more perennials bloom in each area throughout the season.

Make sure the perennials you buy are for Zone 3.

Here are a few suggestions from my experience. There are many more perennials for our Zone 3.

Early Bloomers

Poppies and Forget-Me-Nots sprout from last year’s seeds and will soon overwhelm your flower garden if you do not thin them quickly. However, they are among the first flowers to bloom. Bees love poppies.

Elephant ears are large-leafed plants that grow anywhere. They spread, so you must continually confine them. 

Pasque flowers are one of the earliest bloomers. They come in red, white, and blue flowers. 

Lady Slipper, a native flower, produces yellow flowers shaped as lady’s slippers.

Mid-summer Bloomers

Coral Bells produce small red bell-shaped flowers that last and last. They are slow growers.

Delphiniums are tall plants producing a variety of shades of blue flowers. They are susceptible to worms that eat flower and leaf buds. As soon as you see damage, spray with Bacillus thuringiensis or Spinosad.

Fire Weed is a native plant that grows up to 1.2 metres tall, with a mass of small pink flowers that bees love. 

Hostas come in many varieties and are known for their interesting leaves. They flower in mid-summer. 

Iris. The flowers are short lived, but beautiful. As they tend to become overgrown, be prepared to divide them every three or four years.

Lilies come in many varieties and colours. The red lily beetle can completely destroy a clump of lilies. It can be controlled with Ambush sprayed on the bulbs as they emerge in the spring. Spray every two days for up to five weeks. 

Maltese Cross stands up to 1.2 metres, with small red flowers.

Ohio Buckeye produces a creamy white flower that lasts for a decent interval. While it looks somewhat like a bush, cut it down in the fall; it will grow up in the spring.

Peonies produce beautiful, but short-lasting flowers, in many colours.

Late-summer Bloomers

Cone Flowers come in a variety of colours with lasting blooms.

Monkshood tolerates some shade and flowers late in the summer.

Some native plants such as Goldenrod and Aster are fall bloomers.

These are many other perennial flowers you can grow in a Zone 3 garden. 

Charles Schroder is a St. Albert resident and an avid gardener.