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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

So what is a Perennial anyway?

Dicentra spectabilis (Old Fashioned bleeding heart)

I've been blogging for about three years now at my other site, Old Country Gardens (click on the name to visit that site). The blog is listed with a Garden blog site named Blotanical. Most of the readers that visit that blog are avid gardeners, lots of experienced gardeners and also beginning gardeners.

Hardy Geranium (Cranesbill)

Today I realized that so many of the words and terms that advanced gardeners take for granted are words that many people just aren't familiar with. My new business cards came and I began handing them out today. At first, I handed them out at my garden club and of course, everybody knew what I meant when I said that I'd be selling "perennials". Next though, I started handing out my cards at the local school and it quickly became apparent that while some people enjoy gardening, they were not as familiar with gardening vocabulary.

Now, I am quite open about the fact that I am not a scientific person. My goal is not to stump all of you with lots of words when more simple words would do the same job. Even my definition of a "Perennial" and for that matter, an "Annual" will not be the same definition you would find in a dictionary.

(My herb garden in early spring, all perennials, all came through the winter)

For me, a perennial is a plant that returns year after year. Here on Long Island we live in zone 6b (further away from the water) or zone 7a (near the shore). Most people in Huntington village or north of it are 7a, those of us further south are 6b. These are really numbers that just say that we have cold winters, temperatures stay below freezing for long time periods, we don't get reliable snow cover and Long Island suffers a prolonged frost/thaw period during spring.

So, once again, a perennial is a plant that returns year after year. Some perennials only return for 3 or 4 years. That is called a short lived perennial. Some will come back for as long as you are living at your house. Some are called perennials but still die after one winter. It might just be that they are perennials in a different part of the country. My focus is on plants that perennially return here, on Long Island.

Coreopsis (Tickseed)

The photos I've been showing here are of some of the perennial plants in my garden. The first was a Bleeding heart. It's true botanical name is Dicentra spectabilis. While you don't need to know how to pronounce that name, it helps if you can at least copy and paste the name into Google. By doing this you can look up growing information for anything once you know it's name.

Inside the parenthasis I will also list the nickname if I know it. Nicknames are not a reliable way to find information about a plant because nicknames change drastically in different parts of the state, country, and world. That's why I take the time to write out the botanical name.

(Shade perennials such as Hosta, Epemedium, Pulmonaria, Brunera and more...)

Perennials are attractive to me because I could never afford to purchase new plants every year to fill all the gardens on my 1.3 acre property. If you came past my place right now, you'd see tufts of fresh growth filling all my garden beds and even some early spring blooms. Those plants were not planted this year, they were planted sometime during the past 12 years and have returned once again.

A plant that is killed by a frost or freeze, that does not live through our winters, is called an "Annual". The most well known annuals are Impatiens, Marigolds, Coleus and so on. I grow them too but I grow just a few of them as they just don't fit into my budget. When I purchase annuals, I am extrememly picky, looking for something to add to a container or a certain spot of the garden that I want to highlight. Actually, the Coleus at the right of this photo would live for years in a tropical garden but here it's not winter hardy so Long Islanders think of it as an "annual".

Now here's the crazy thing, there are annuals that will come back year after year. How's that? Well, you'll just have to come back and visit me again to find out!

I'm typing this late at night in hopes that the rain we are having will stop by morning and even though it will be muddy, I have dreams of getting some time in the garden tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

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I do so love to read your comments! Much as I wish I also had time to reply, many times I will have to choose between replying to comments or creating a new post so please understand if I choose to use my time on a new post. This will also give me time to visit some of you too.