Mostly native to the U.S. and Canada, Asclepias include over 100 species of evergreen or deciduous perennials adorned with clusters of small, interestingly shaped blooms that are irresistible to butterflies. Attractive and easy to grow, they shine in many perennial gardens and are a key component of butterfly gardens, cottage gardens, or prairies and meadows.
Attractive, Sea Holly plants (Eryngium) are striking ornamental perennials grown for their arresting, thistle-like, silvery or blue tinted flower heads adorned with a ruff of showy bracts. Blooming in summer and sometimes into fall, they are useful in rock gardens, coastal gardens and in borders where their steel blue flowers and foliage complement the vibrantly colored summer flowers.
Many tulips are not strongly perennial and their floral display tends to decline from season to season. They bloom well the first year, but then peter out after a couple of years. But if you select the right tulip varieties, plant them in the right spot and provide the proper care, you can be rewarded with a magnificent spring display year after year.
Naturalizing bulbs is a terrific way to brighten up lawns. A surprisingly large number of perennial bulbs do well in grass, such as snowdrops (Galanthus), crocuses (Crocus), squills (Scilla), checkered lilies (Fritillaria meleagris) and plenty others charming bulbs. Left undisturbed in the ground, they will emerge again every spring, but will also gently multiply as long as they receive the right light conditions and are planted in soil with the proper drainage.
There are 17 Hellebore species. Most are native to the mountainous regions of Europe, especially the Balkan region of the former Yugoslavia, south along the eastern Adriatic to Greece and Turkey. Many of the species have been interbred, producing countless hybrid Hellebores in a rich array of colors and forms.
A member of the Lily family, Erythronium (Dog Tooth Violet) are charming bulbous perennials grown for their nodding, lily-shaped flowers adorned with gracefully reflexed petals in spring. Equally attractive is their foliage of elliptic leaves, often copiously marbled with purple-bronze.
Fuchsias are not so fragile beauties. Some are quite hardy and can withstand temperatures down to -10ºF (-23ºC) and grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 6. They are useful in permanent plantings, adding vibrant pockets of summer color and showing up particularly well against dark evergreen shrubs. They are perfect to light up a dull, shady border.
Real eye-catchers in the garden, Gladiolus, also known as sword lilies, are cormous perennials boasting incredibly spectacular spikes of funnel-shaped flowers in summer in a surprisingly wide range of colors. Borne atop attractive fans of sword-shaped or linear leaves, they always provide a dramatic effect with their rich and cheerful colors and their breathtaking vertical lines.
Flowering bulbs look appealing when planted under garden trees. However, planting any bulbs beneath trees is not always successful because of the dense shade cast by the trees, the competition with their roots and the lack of moisture under these trees. If a tree competes with bulbs for light, water or nutrients, the tree always wins.
Lifting our spirits with their bright colors in the first months of the year, Primulas, also known as Primroses, belong to a huge genus of more than 430 species. Hardy, these cheerful perennials provide a wide range of sizes, shapes and come in almost every color imaginable. They range from tiny rock garden plants to statuesque candelabras.
An essential component of many bouquets thanks to their long vase life (over 3 weeks), Freesias are striking beauties that also deserve a spot outdoors. Visually stunning with their abundant clusters of brightly colored flowers on gently arching stalks, they are also intensely fragrant. Native to South Africa, these tender cormous perennials, often grown as annuals, require minimal maintenance, are virtually disease-free and pest-free, deer and rabbit resistant, and will multiply to form generous clumps over time - provided some basic rules are respected.
Appealing to most gardeners, Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) are rhizomatous or tuberous perennials with heart-shaped flowers dangling in arching panicles or racemes above attractively divided leaves. Shade tolerant, they bloom over a long season, extending from late spring to early fall, in cooler climates. In hotter climates, flowering will usually stop in the heat of the summer, but may start again when the weather cools in late summer or early fall. Beautiful in leaf as soon as they sprout, they quickly add their charming blooms and make elegant additions to the garden when combined with other shade-loving perennials.
Naturalizing bulbs is a terrific way to brighten up lawns, prairies or meadows in spring. They also make gardening easy. Once planted, there is nothing left to do: these bulbs can stay right where they are and produce flowers year after year. What could be better?
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