Perennials can be used to create a beautiful garden and patio area that looks great all year! When we went over to Tracey Ayton's home in beautiful Tsawwassen Boundary Bay, I was excited to create a perennial garden inspired by French Provence design and with a simple colour scheme.
This look was achieved with careful groupings of container planters, a wall of hydrangeas and plant choices that created a varied textured look. Keep reading for all the details and some great tips & tricks!
All photography is courtesy of Tracey Ayton, you can see more of her work on her website.
Group Your Plants
We created groupings of potted plants on the back patio, using interesting plants with different textures and colours. We also made sure that they were at different heights for more interest and diversity. (Left photo: Coral Bark Maple Tree, Twiggly Wiggly, Lavender, Geranium and Boxwood.)
These weathered wicker baskets are simple, highlight the plants, and also add to the 'French Provence' styling. Some of the baskets did not have liners, so we improvised, making sure to include drainage holes.
TIPS: To create liners for the baskets that didn't come with any, I used super thick garbage bags. These were thick enough that they wouldn't break when we poked them, so I knew they would last. I made sure to poke a dime sized hole in the bottom of the bag for drainage. You don't want your roots sitting in water!
One of the main inspiration pieces for Tracey was the Coral Bark Maple Tree in this black crescent garden pot. The amazing red colouring of the trunk, along with the light green foliage, creates a show piece for the patio.
Tips: For a long term garden addition, like this tree, it's important to choose a high quality pot so that it won't need to be replaced every year and disturb the root system. These Crescent pots are fantastic because they are weather proof, shock proof (won't crack if you drop it!) and double walled so that you can leave them out all winter. They also have great drainage and are made from high quality materials that won't need replacing every year.
Show Off Each Plant
Using one type of plant per pot is an effective design, especially when they are grouped together. This really shows off the different colours and textures of each plant, from the Dusty Miller (above left) to the Lavender. For this project we stuck with green, white and blues.
One of my favourite additions was the Twiggly Wiggly plant (centre above) with it's crazy branches! This is a New Zealand plant, with a super mediterranean look.
Tips: All these plants come from different areas of the world and have different nutritional requirements. I used a good 14-14-14 slow release fertilizer in all the soil, to keep them happy and looking great all summer long.
Another great tip is to use old 4" planter pots in the bottom of your container gardens to help provide drainage, and keep the roots out of the water. Watch our quick tips video to see how it's done.
In the Limelight
In the garden we wanted to build a wall of Limelight Hydrangeas that would be a giant showstopper all summer long with their vibrant chartreuse blooms. To create a wall effect, I planted these bushes about 2 feet apart, giving them room to grow into bushy beautiful plants, without a lot of space in between.
For these hydrangea garden beds, we raised them up about a foot off above ground level. This not only keeps the roots out of water, but the gradual rise also makes the garden seem bigger and gives it a 'feature' look.
Tips: Hydrangeas bloom on new growth. This means that you have to trim them back every fall/winter or early spring in order to get beautiful flowers. Don't be afraid to cut them right back to the ground, they'll grow back! You may even need to thin out the branches once they start growing, to make sure there's enough room.
The best thing about hydrangeas is that they give your garden impact and interest during many seasons. These LimeLight Hydrangeas for example, have immature blooms in spring are light green, then mature to chartreuse in the summer. At the end of summer they become an antique colour, sometimes with shades of soft pink. Later on during fall they will turn a rusty dark green colour. Always something beautiful happening.
A beautiful Incrediball Hydrangea Standard (tree form) is featured by the shed, the bright green contrasting with the white siding. When you're planting shrubs and trees you need to make sure they get enough water to become established in the first 30 days. After that time you can test this by pulling on the base of the plant, and it shouldn't lift at all, if it has rooted properly in the soil.
Tips: Create a berm around the plant to trap water in the soil. You can see in the photo to the left that I made a donut shape around the tree. This will ensure that water from the hose or rain will soak into the soil around your plant and provide enough moisture for those hot days.
You can create your own perennial garden on the patio, deck or in the garden by choosing a variety of plants in your favourite colour scheme. Not only will you not have to replace them every year, but they often provide interest in your garden through all the seasons.