Since June is perennial gardening month perhaps it’s best to take a step back in June and do one of the most important gardening activities: evaluate. We plan all winter about how the year is going to be but as soon as spring rolls around everything happens so fast we forget about our months of planning and the garden shapes our lives more than we shape its. We forget to evaluate our gardens from a broader perspective of thinking outside of the box. It’s important to look at prominent views from windows or down garden paths and ask questions like is that maple branch lower from the shade of higher limbs and from increased weight of this year’s foliage? Has it begun to obscure a favorite plant from view? (maybe this would create some mystery and be something valuable) Are the oak-leaf hydrangeas still within scale of the garden and their location after eight years of unchecked growth? Is this Campanula in full flower at the same time as the rose as I intended? Is there a better option whose color and blooming cycle would sink better with the rose’s?
Keep these sorts of questions in mind during the rest of the year.
Once you’ve identified areas that need improvement it’s important to put a lot of thought into your plan. Learning about the myriad of available options can be daunting and overwhelming, however the more options you have the better-informed your plan will ultimately be. The internet and books are an obvious starting place but another great (and perhaps better) option is to come in and talk with a perennial staff member. Most of us have gardens and first-hand experience not only with gardening but also with what plants are available in the trade since we’re around them every day. Recently, I was helping a customer decide on what to pair with their Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ that would be blooming at the same time. To make a really hot mid-summer show I suggested planting Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and Leucanthemum ‘Becky’. The foliage of the Crocosmia also gives a tropical feel. Or for a cooler but equally dramatic combination plant Lilium ‘Landini’ along with H. ‘Limelight’ and leave out the Leucanthemum. In a moist shady area Rodgersia pinnata‘s bold foliage would make a dramatic statement, but make that Rodgersia ‘Bronze Peacock’ and pair it with Corydalis lutea and we’ve created much more excitement by adding textural foliage contrast and warming up the bronze tones of the Rodgersia with golden Corydalis flowers.