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Playing with Perennials

The garden at Heronswood has been going through quite a transformation with the rearranging of perennial plantings, the addition of new perennials, and experimenting with different combinations. New perennial plantings around the house, the pond and the front lawn are all starting to come out of their dormancy, and everything is beginning to take shape. 

The colour wheel garden is springing to life and will create a lot of interest. The garden’s circumference has been divided and planted out in the 12 sections of the colour wheel. Each colour will be represented by those perennials that fall into each shade. It will be a garden that is quite unique, and we will be learning alongside our visitors. The blocks of colour will be bold and obvious, and gardeners will be drawn to those colours that resonate with them. With this, the imaginative and creative processes can begin, and we can start to think about those colours and textures which we gravitate to and how we can use these in different combinations in our own gardens. 

The way we use perennials in the garden is dependent on the type of garden we are wanting to create. Traditional perennial borders are planted out with mass plantings of each variety for a big impact. Cottage gardens tend to be a bit more free-flowing, having perennials mixed with annuals and a few vegetables and herbs added to form a wild beauty where pretty much anything goes. Then there are gardens that fall somewhere in between – having some larger block plantings of perennials with surprise annuals, the odd single perennial or shrub, and bulbs that can highlight. 

Planting a garden full of perennials should not be something that creates anxiety in a gardener – even the most experienced gardeners make mistakes and are always learning. More often than not, things just work and some combinations that, on paper, should not combine, can look fabulous.

Playing with colour, textures, heights, and forms can be fun, and the good thing is, what doesn’t work can easily be moved in the winter with new ideas tried and experimented with.  

Here are just a few tips to keep in mind when planning and planting your perennial garden:

  • Start to take notice of the perennials that are growing well in the gardens in your area. You begin to get an idea of your personal preferences as well as which perennials do well in your climate.
  • Do some research on the ideal conditions of the perennials that you wish to use. Plants won’t perform to their best if their requirements are not met. Some love full sun, others prefer shade. There are different preferences in soil type, drainage, and wind patterns. A bit of initial study can help save experiencing disappointment.
  • Perennials can be propagated by cuttings, division, and seed. If there are particular perennials or combinations of perennials that you love, propagate more and echo these throughout your garden.
  • It’s ok to make mistakes. The great thing about perennials is that if a combination doesn’t work, you can dig them up when they are dormant in winter and replant. So you can be a bit adventurous.
  • Mix it up – nature loves diversity. Different colours, foliage, heights, and forms keep the eye moving and creates contrast. 
Most importantly, allow your personality to shine through. You can always mimic ideas from books and magazines, but ultimately your garden is a space for you and your family, so you want it to be a reflection of you. That’s where gardening becomes a joy. As long as you love it, that’s all that matters.


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