Winter Flowering herbaceous perennials

Winter jasmine, Jasminum

Herbaceous perennials are a wonderful group of plants which will reliably come into flower year after year from early spring to late summer and then die back to soil level in the winter. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but on the whole, once established, perennial plants are relatively hardy and will thrive with just a little attention: deadheading, perennial pruning and in some cases lifting and dividing the roots every few years to avoid deterioration - which has the added bonus of gaining a free plant to put elsewhere in the garden!

Some herbaceous plants do not die down in winter and these evergreen perennials come in all shapes and sizes with something suitable for most aspects. There are a few perennials which are not completely hardy and may not survive a harsh winter.


Traditionally, herbaceous perennials are found in larger gardens in a wide herbaceous border or an island bed, with taller plants at the back or in the centre of the island, medium height plants in the middle, down to the lower growing plants at the front. Looking spectacular during spring and summer, the only disadvantage of this style of gardening is that because the majority of the plants die down in winter, the bed or border can look uninteresting for several months. For smaller gardens perhaps a more suitable place for herbaceous perennials is in a mixed bed or border, among shrubs, evergreens, bulbs and summer bedding to create interest throughout the year.


Some popular hardy perennials for the front of the border are Alchemilla Mollis (Lady’s Mantle), hardy Geranium(Cranesbill), Dianthus (Pinks) or maybe evergreens such as Saxifrage and Bergeniaand of course the ever popular and long lasting Asters.


There are dozens of medium height plants to choose from which enjoy full sun or light shade: Peonies, Astrantia, Campanula, Penstemons, Phlox, Echinacea, Euphorbia, Poppies and Rudbeckia to name just a few. Astilbes, Hostas, Hellebores and Ferns will thrive in a shadier location.


Taller plants for the back of the border include Delphiniums, Lavatera (Tree Mallow), Lilies, Acanthus, Echinops (Globe Thistle) and Red Hot Pokers and of course Hollyhocks and Foxgloves give a real cottage garden look. A trip to the garden centre will give you lots of inspiration and ideas on what to choose for the visual effect you want to create.


If you’re planning a new herbaceous border, take time to study the height and different flowering times of the perennials you choose to ensure that as one group of plants fades the next ones will be coming into flower.


Soil preparation is important, adding garden compost or well rotted farmyard manure to the soil when you dig over the site. The addition of blood, fish and bone fertiliser will benefit the perennials along with a good watering-in when first planted. Group several of the same plants together for best effect, making sure they’re not too close together so they can grow and spread in subsequent years.

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DALY: Use care when planting around septic drainfields  —
Shallow rooted annual and perennial herbaceous plants can be planted closer to the drain fields since they do not have invasive roots. Turfgrass can be grown over the drain field and is beneficial since it helps hold the soil in place.

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