Gardening: The joy of perennial favourites

“From now and over the next couple of months perennials should be dug up and divided,” says CEDRIC BRYANT

THE soft ground from the wonderful (and so welcome) recent rain makes it an ideal time to dig and divide perennials.

The long-flowering Campanula “Telham Beauty”

The long-flowering Campanula “Telham Beauty”

As opposed to annuals and biennials, perennials will last for many years. Some are evergreen and others will die down after flowering and re-emerge the following season.

Perennials are one of the most useful groups of plants for any garden, for several very good reasons. Many, such as Campanula persicifolia “Telham Beauty”, illustrated here, flower for an extended period. This is one of a large group of Campanula commonly known as “Canterbury Bells”. Ours started flowering in mid spring and, despite all the extreme heat, are flowering still.

From now and over the next couple of months perennials should be dug up and divided. Normally, just one perennial grown for a couple of seasons when dug and divided will give you at least 10 extra plants. When dividing, I suggest you replant the largest of the group back into its original position. All these extra plants are ideal for filling in gaps in the garden beds.

I always replant in groups of threes, fives or sevens for a more effective display providing bold groups of colour.

If you do not have room for these extra plants, simply pot them up in a premium potting mix for your next school or church fete plant stall. Once potted, keep them watered and apply Maxicrop Seaweed Plant Nutrient every few weeks to promote extra root growth.

Another plus is that most perennials produce an abundance of seed. To collect the seed when the flowers are almost finished, place a brown paper bag over the flowers and tie round the stalk. Do not use a plastic bag as the condensation inside will rot the seeds. You may think the paper bag will fall apart in rain, this is not the case.

When you can hear the seeds rattle in the bag, simply cut the flower stalk. Do not forget to write the name of the plant on the bag. Once again, scatter the seeds in your garden or give to the plant stall.

The stunning ground cover Alstroemeria “Princess Zsa Zsa”

The stunning ground cover Alstroemeria “Princess Zsa Zsa”

Another group of perennials are the Alstroemerias pictured here. They come in a wide selection of colours. I planted one from a pot and, within one season, it has spread by half a metre. This is a great low-growing, long-flowering plant with the flowers lasting well as a cut flower. This is a favourite sold in flower shops.

During the recent heatwave, ours suffered and looked pretty awful. So I cut them to ground level with not a leaf to be seen. Now, three weeks later, the leaves have regrown and they have flowered again for autumn. They look just as effective in a container or a hanging garden, if you only have a balcony.

Now is a good time to select a range of autumn flower perennials from your local garden centre and plant out. You can then enjoy the flowers over autumn and into winter.

By next autumn they will be ready to divide. Let me give you an example, a few years ago our then 10-year-old granddaughter and I dug up a range of perennials from our garden for fund raising.

I was doing the digging and keeping the barrow full of potting mix. Rebecca was doing the actual dividing and potting. In several hours, over two weekends, we potted up 1080 perennials! The only cost being the plastic pots and potting mix. At the end of the day, you could not see where we had taken them from in the garden. What a bonus for filling in gaps in your own garden or for the plant stall.

Other autumn perennials now in flower in garden centres include Anemone hupehensis or Japanese wind flower, Chrysanthemums, Asters or Michaelmas daisies, Sedum “Autumn Joy” and Salvias of every colour.

Jottings… This week my advice is to simply get out into the garden and start dividing perennials once they have finished flowering.

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