A list of six tried-and-true favorite plants for beds and borders that bloom winter through fall. These are the shrubs and perennials to have in any garden, that will bring interest to your landscape through the seasons.
Winter and spring is a good time to plan new gardens and analyze existing gardens - what is and isn't working, and what new plants to add. It's smart to make plans in these 'quieter' months before it gets busier and also to take advantage of any sales that you may find at nurseries or online.
I've tried many, many perennials, annuals, and shrubs in our beds and borders through the years, choosing from things that I read about in books or catalogs or just happened upon at stores. But the plants that have worked out the best always seem to be what was recommended to me (or passed along) by other gardeners.
And so, as one gardener to another (or gardener-to-be), here are a few of my tried-and-true favorite plants for beds and borders, listed by season winter to fall.
I have found these to meet all my criteria for a great plant:
- Easy care, reliable bloom, pretty (of course).
- Easy to find (and thus, not expensive).
- Long-lasting bloom or good bones, if evergreen.
6 Favorite Plants for Beds & Borders
1. Hellebore (also known as "Lenten rose" or "Christmas rose")
A hands-down favorite winter blooming perennial, this plant starts budding in January here in Western Oregon, blooms all through February and into March - right when the garden is sorely needing some blooms.
I have two hellebore varieties, the white and creamy pink pictured, and both bloom about the same time. These plants never seem to mind any snow or freezing temperatures we might get, either - another great reason to grow them. After blooming, their leaves are a great backdrop for spring and summer blooming plants and they're almost evergreen, making them an all-around good plant to grow.
2. Hardy Geranium
This perennial comes in many, many different varieties now, but they all fill in garden beds nicely and usually have long lasting blooms through spring though fall, depending. The geranium pictured is called "Monster" with pink blooms from June all the way through October. "Rozanne" is also a long bloomer, as are many others.
I find these to be such easy care plants that all I really need to do is cut them back once in the early spring - and sometimes mid-summer if they get to be unruly. And that's it - no deadheading or anything. Love.
But not just any rose, though - shrub, floribunda, English, or any rose that's been bred to be disease-resistant and everblooming with less maintenance than a typical tea rose (the rose pictured is a floribunda rose called "Pretty Lady").
However, no matter what you may read, even these involve a lot of upkeep compared to the others on this list - if it's not pruning, then it's blackspot (every rose has blackspot in Oregon- every one that's not sprayed with chemicals, that is...) or bugs eating holes in the leaves. But you know what? Some things in life are worth the extra work and growing roses is one of them. The smell, the colors, the way they fill a vase...little compares.
An annual that blooms in the summer and into early fall, these sweet, simple flowers can't help but make you happy. They are quintessentially summertime, aren't they? I like to grow the varieties (there are many - check them out in one of my favorite catalogs) that are bred for cutting more than seed production, and produce many blooms instead of just one.
Even though they have to be planted yearly, they don't need much care afterwards besides regular watering and I can stick a handful of cut blossoms haphazardly in a white jug and it's one of the most beautiful "arrangements" around. How many things can you say that about?
They start blooming midsummer, come into their glory until August and keep blooming (or changing color, depending on the variety, like everblooming "Endless Summer") until cut down by frost. I love, love, love hydrangeas.
You can grow them big, small, as lace caps, mop heads, or panicles - and the colors keep expanding by the year. Even though they don't look so lovely in the winter (think brown sticks...), no garden should be without at least one bush. "Little Lime" is my most recent acquisition.
An evergreen shrub that is so versatile it's another plant I recommend to everyone. They provide a wonderful backdrop to flowering perennials, make great foundation plants, fill spots in borders to perfection, never get nasty big, and can take sun or shade, depending on the variety.
You can prune them if you want or let them grow naturally, plus they provide the best cuttings for vase fillers, wreaths and Christmas greenery. Probably my favorite evergreen.
I hope you have discovered a new-to-you perennial or shrub to add to your landscape. I know I wouldn't have a garden without at least one of each of these plants. What are some plants you wouldn't garden without?
This article has been updated - it was originally published in March 2011.