Lupins - perennial planting pleasures
Lupins in full bloom at the Dobies Trial grounds in Devon

Writing in the Dobies April Newsletter which was published last week, I explained that our focus this month was to be on Perennials. I’ve been reading through my gardening history books to discover how fashions have changed. But this post is not to be a history lesson: perennial planting pleasures have always existed. This is the here and now. As I said in the newsletter, perennials are the backbone of so many gardens; plants which truly come into their own from late Spring onwards. Reappearing year after year, and requiring little attention apart from deadheading, they help to keep the surrounding soil weed-free, and  represent remarkably good value.

Perennial Plugs save time

Spring 2014 - Dobies additional catalogue
Perennial Planting Pleasures can be found in this latest Dobies catalogue

The latest printed Dobies catalogue, as well as emailed flyers, is still offering a huge range of Perennial Plugs which really is the most cost-effective way of infilling gaps in borders, or when starting from scratch. As I found the catalogue presentation particularly useful – plants relevant for front, middle and back of the border – I worked my way through to select my own perennial planting pleasures. And this is what I ordered to augment my flower patches (the pages and codes will make it easier for you to check the plants so I won’t describe them here): Page 18 – Stock, ref 22 44 92; Page 28 – Sedum, ref 22 57 21; Page 38 – Brunnera, ref 22 74 71; Page 41 – Baptisia, ref 23 91 91; Page 42 – Anthemis, ref 23 17 71; Page 43 – Scabiosa, ref 23 13 51; Page 44 – Angelica Gigas, ref 23 10 11. Upon arrival, I will pot up the plugs into Biodegradable Pots until the plants are sufficiently large to transplant in their final positions.

Preparing the Ground

Preparing the soil is essential prior to planting perennials
Obtaining a fine tilth at the former Dobies trial grounds, essential for perennial planting pleasures

When considering perennial planting pleasures, it pays to prepare the plots into which your perennial transplants will go. They will be there for a long time, and the ground will not be disturbed or dug over every year as it would when sowing annuals. With a new border, or  large piece of ground as above, a rotator will help – but first, do ensure that perennial weeds have been removed: docks and dandelions particularly; accidentally chop their roots and the weeds will multiply! Dry and burn the roots; don’t add them to the compost heap or again, hey presto, they will root and grow. If, like me, you will be planting into small areas of reclaimed ground, ensure the patches are weed-free, dig or fork them over and use some well-rotted compost to fortify the soil before planting.

Perennial Planting Pleasures from scratch

A fantastic example of foxgloves at the Dobies trial grounds
Foxgloves in full glory

If your ground really is unlikely to be ready to take advantage of plug plants, you could start from scratch and sow seed this Spring – in seed trays or pots, not direct into the soil. For you need to remember that perennials that germinate this year will not flower until next. You can cheat a little if you are short of the necessary time to sow, prick out and transplant. Buy plugs this year of biennials such as foxgloves and when they have flowered, leave the flower spikes in place and let them self-seed. This is an also option with some perennials; self-seeded plants will appear in the most unlikely places. Leave them where they are, or transplant them if your prefer.

The weather ahead

Weather chart relating to the next few days.
Reading a weather chart is as informative as listening to the weather forecast.

An area of high pressure lies to the south of the UK, bringing generally settled conditions to many central and southern areas. A couple of fronts are moving eastwards across the far northwest, leading to outbreaks of rain in these parts, and winds are also stronger here. During Thursday and Friday, that rain threatening the northwest will slowly edge southeastwards, though some parts of southeast England should remain essentially dry. Heading into the weekend, it looks most likely at this stage that the dominant anti-cyclone will begin to retract southwestards, allowing a brisk northwesterly wind to develop that will allow weather systems to spill in across all parts. As a result, we can expect a fairly unsettled weekend, with some rain and showers around, always heaviest in the northwest. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, for tomorrow I am heading to the RHS Flower Show in Cardiff, my first ever visit. I’ll be seeking some perennial planting pleasures there, along with a lot else.

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