At Home With Adam - "My Favorite Garden Perennials"

Adam's House (WPVI) -- With the weather finally turning the corner away from the unusual late-season chills, it is time to get the garden! I have never in my life covered my plants night after night this late in the season. As an avid gardener, I take pride in my yard and all the varieties of plants I try to grow. Each spring brings a new challenge: plants that don't make it from year to year, plants that thrive after a hardy winter, and others that hate the depths of cold and never return. It is fun to test, try, and explore different kinds of flowers at the homestead. I am one of those gardeners that love a pop of color at different times of the year. It's always nice to have something in bloom every season, so I make sure each garden has flowering plants that shine different at points in the year.

Deer are a constant issue where we live, so I battle that even more so than the weather. My kids are my watch dogs and bang on the window and scream "don't eat Daddy's flowers" when they see them having a feast. I have found that the terms "deer proof" or "deer resistant" have to be taken with a grain of salt. The deer will eat whatever they want, especially in the fall and winter when their food options are dwindling. Sometimes, plants I thought they would never touch become the hot item on the menu.

For those they love, I do have to put repellent on the plants, or fence them off if I want the true beauty to shine. It is a lot of work, but totally worth it when you see a sea of colors in the yard. Here are my favorite perennials/shrubs:

These are great if you want foliage all year round. I also love to find evergreens that bloom at some point in the year to bring on another depth of beauty.

  • Camellia - An evergreen that blooms in fall or spring. It has gorgeous flowers and I prefer the fall blooming since they are typically well in November and December. Camellia has glossy leaves and loves acidic soil. In the winter, keep it protected from wind.

  • Goshiki False Holly - Deer never touch it! It has a variety of colors in the leaves. Goshiki means 5 colors. Light yellow/green/white in summer. Red/golden with new growth in spring and even in the winter. It is a stunning evergreen.

  • Holly - Red berries in the fall and winter.

  • Mountain Laurel "pink charm" - Deer will devour this, so protect it! You will get a beautiful pink rose-like flower in May/June. It has dark glossy leaves and loves shade.

  • Perennials!
    These are flowers that come back every year and they are often bigger and better each time. I love when they grow so much that you need to split them, placing half in another part of the yard, or giving it to friends.

  • Anise Hyssop - These are very fragrant, sweet smelling, a bee and butterfly magnate, and bloom all summer long. It has gorgeous tall purple flowers and grows 2 to 3 feet.

  • Aster - A late summer and fall beauty. When the other summer blooms are fading, this shines bright and provides nectar for bees and butterflies. Mine are blue and this can be divided after a few years. They grow very tall, the star-like blooms are loaded on the plant. But keep an eye out, deer have munched on some of mine.

  • Bee Balm - These are almost 2 feet tall and bring a pop of red to the garden in late spring and early summer. Pick blooms off when they fade, it will promote new growth. Luckily, deer tend to stay away.

  • Black Eyed Susan - This is a smaller cone-like flower that is bright yellow. These plants are typically loaded with flowers and spread quickly. They are easy to grow and look beautiful next to the Shasta Daisy.

  • Beardtongue - A tall purple flower that blooms for a good 3 weeks in early to mid-summer. What I love is the purplish/burgundy foliage. It's a nice change from classic green. Deer have never touched mine.

  • Coneflowers - There are so many varieties that come in all different colors. Most of the time, deer leave these alone. They are great for cutting and putting in vases and typically bloom all summer long.

  • Catmint - Spring blooms that stay very low to the ground. Their low profile makes them perfect for the front of flower beds. If you cut the plant back after the first round of flowers, you will get a second round in the summer. These seem to be deer-proof.

  • Hardy Geranium - Low-growing and great for rock gardens. Will spread out and give color all summer long. The flowers are blue/purple and it loves shade.

  • Limelight Hydrangea Tree - I had been eying these for years, but never purchased one until recently. Deer do love them, so I only jumped and bought 3 when they were at a deep discount last fall. They have large white blooms all summer that will turn gold by fall. They can grow high, so plan on putting some fencing around it until they are too tall for the deer to reach.

  • Japanese Painted Fern - These silvery fronds have stems that are deep blue and red. They love the shade, so brighten up those dark location with a few of these.

  • Mums - If they are hardy mums, they will come back each year. I have found mine start to bloom early summer and continue through the season. You should trim them a couple of times to hold back the flowers, but I love letting them bloom early and they last a long time.

  • Oakleaf Hydrangea - A stunner with oak-like leaves and huge white blooms mid-summer. I love that in the fall, they are a variety of colors, almost like a sugar maple that turns orange/red/bronze/gold/purple. It is truly striking. Unlike the limelight, this blooms on old wood, so DO NOT PRUNE after August. FYI: deer will occasionally taste the leaves.

  • Ornamental Grasses - These come in so many colors, heights, and varieties. They are deer-resistant and show beauty in the summer and then fall with tall spikes of flowing flowers. I even cut the stems with the flowers and place them in vases in the house all winter.

  • Peony - These come in so many colors and grow back year after year. Even better - deer won't touch them. The plant produces very fragrant, large blooms in May but they don't last long and tend to droop. The flowers are gorgeous, but you need to stake them up so they don't fall over. If you transplant it, it takes a couple years to bloom again, so find some patience and leave it be.

  • Rudbeckia Maxima and Autumn Sun Coneflower - This is a giant beauty! It blooms mid to late summer and even in the fall. The flowers are a vibrant yellow, and extremely tall. They stand out and are great for open areas. Deer have never touched mine.

  • Salvia - This is a spring favorite. Mine doesn't last into summer, but brings a nice pop of blue or white. Once it has bloomed, you cut it back and doesn't do much in summer.

  • Shasta Daisy - These are easy to grow, spread fast, and brings white flowers from early to mid-summer. Great for cutting, which actually promotes new growth. Deer will stay away from these.

  • Perennials That Last into Winter!
    These will not die off when it gets cold. They bring some color and beauty to the garden for most of the year.

  • Coral Bells - MY FAVORITE in the yard. These will last almost all year - by February they get a little ragged, but overall, they do great. They come in a variety of colors: purple, lime, and red. Depending on the variety, they bloom tiny bell-like flowers in spring or summer. They are great for the front of garden beds or as a boarder since they stay low to the ground. Deer will snack on them in the winter but not so much in the summer.

  • Lavender - This is another winner with silver foliage that will last through winter. Some varieties are hardier than others, but they are pretty strong no matter what. The foliage gives off that amazing lavender smell and the tall purple flowers that bloom in summer will last for months. Bees and butterflies love to visit and take the nectar.

  • Lenten Rose -These are another favorite of mine and deer hate them, which is an added bonus. They tend to last into early winter, but you will need to take off some dead leaves in spring to encourage new growth and an early bloom. The gorgeous buttercup flowers last months. You can find varieties with different colored foliage (some green, some red), and different colored flowers. They will give you hope in February and March!

  • Lambs Ear - These beautiful leaves are a soft, velvet-like texture that takes on a silver to gray-green color. They tend to last well into the winter and bloom tall spikes of purple come June. They spread like wildfire, so get ready to divide them to give to friends. The leaves can also be used as a natural band-aid for bee stings and are known to help heal wounds. Deer do not like the texture.

  • Favorite Blooming Tree!

    I do love all our cherry trees in the yard, magnolia and dogwoods too, but one stands out over the rest. It is the Witch Hazel tree. This is a slow-growing tree that can is easy to manage. It will bloom yellow in the winter, typically in late February, making it the first tree to show color. The scent is incredible and if you get a late winter snow storm, the white snow laying over the yellow blooms is breathtaking. And in the fall, the changing foliage is a showstopper!

    You can see more of what I have been doing to stay healthy and happy at my Facebook page. or here on the At Home With Adam webpage.
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