Did you get out in the garden this week-end? Between other family activities I managed to get a little time on Saturday to start cleaning up. I had a four-year-old and a two-year-old helping me so I didn't get much done, but it was fun. They cut down a few things themselves and mostly enjoyed hunting for ladybugs.
So I thought this was a good time to post about all those perennials that are left still standing at the end of a long, dry, windy Calgary winter. If you're thinking of adding a few new perennials to your garden this year, why not add something that looks interesting all year long instead of just in the summer? Here are a few of my favourite perennials for "winter interest" and I've included links to what they looked like last summer:
Above: Calamagrostis (geather reed grass) 'Karl Foerster" in the sunny front welcome garden. Actually, I have this in several places front and back and love it.
Above: Here's Karl in the back shade garden. A younger plant so it is smaller, and the kids like to pick the seed heads so this one isn't looking quite as good after the winter, but this photo is an excellent example of how great ornamental grasses look when they're backlit! Consider this when placing grasses in your garden.
Above: Centaura macrocephala, also in the front welcome garden.
Above: Kinnikinnick "Vancouver Jade" in the new side of the front welcome garden. Its leaves turn reddish for winter and are just starting to change back to green now. A great groundcover.
Above: Deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hair grass) also in the front welcome garden. This one got a little smushed by snow.
Above: Nepeta (catmint) 'Walker's Low' also in the front welcome garden. Not the greatest picture but you get the idea. It looked good and kept its shape all winter long.
Above: Hydrangea 'Annabelle' in the shady front entry garden. The seedheads are so light that most of them have blown off, but this is the last one left. Also would be great for dried arrangements but very delicate.
Above: Liatris spicata (gayfeather) in the side garden. That's cerastium tomentosum (snow-in-summer) in the background, a great, evergreen groundcover for a sunny dry spot, as long as you have space (it spreads!)
Above: Clematis viticella 'Polish Spirit' in the butterfly potager. This vine should be cut down in spring because it blooms on new wood (if you don't cut it down all the blooms will be way up high where you can't enjoy them.)
Above: Sedum 'Autumn Joy' in the butterfly potager. The taller sedums keeps their seedheads all winter, although I've noticed that something eats them in the front yard. Only the sedums in the back still have their seedheads by this time of year.
Above: Agastache foeniculum (hyssop) in the butterfly potager. A favourite of bees and kids (the leaves smell like licorice). I like this variety 'Aurea' for its yellow leaves.
Above: Astilbe in the back shade garden. One of the few shade plants that I grow that likes moisture. I try to give it a little extra water once in a while to keep it happy.
Above: Sedum 'Matrona' in the back adventure garden. Another taller sedum that kept its seedheads all winter. Love this plant!
Above: Here's Sedum 'Matrona' again in front of Helictotrichon sempervirens (blue oat grass). This ornamental grass got smushed by now but I've seen it in other gardens looking great all winter. I think mine needs a couple more years to get bigger and then I expect great things from it!
Above: Linum lewisii (blue flax) in the sunny adventure garden, although this one happens to be in a spot that gets quite a bit of shade and seems to do OK. A great, low-maintenance plant with long-lasting blue flowers. Easy to grow from seed - buy a package and spread it around the garden now, and you'll have it forever!
Above: Perovskia (russian sage) in the adventure garden. Sorry, the light was terrible for this picture but I had to include it to make the list complete. The white, wiry stems of russian sage look great all winter. It is a shrub in warmer places but usually dies back to the ground here. No worries - it comes back every year and blooms in late summer.
Above: Feathery seedheads of Clematis alpina 'Blue bird'. This kind of clematis blooms in spring and doesn't ever need to be cut down because it blooms on old wood. Blue Bird is a very tough, drought-tolerant variety which grows under one of my spruce trees with no special care. Amazing!
Above: Here are 3 Festuca glauca (blue fescue) at the bottom of this picture in the back shade garden. It is evergreen in Calgary and doesn't even need to be cut back in spring. A great edging plant and I'm going to add more this year.