Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Support PBS Shop PBS Search PBS




Perennial Splendor

Kip and Michael
Kip and Michael discuss the new border in full bloom, as Claudius the horse looks on.

Find out how the Victory Garden's chief tender engendered splendor in our big new perennial border

As autumn closes in, it's time to take stock of the current season's successes, failures, and especially those gardening projects that have turned out to be sound but inspired. By dint of horticultural triage, the successes and failures are simply left alone or rooted out; the middle ground is where our attention will be directed during winter planning sessions.

On the whole, our new 100-plus-foot-long perennial border goes into the success column. The biggest payoff, for me, is the long view — looking down the length of the border rather than facing it head on — where wave after wave of undulating color recedes into distant reaches.

Border in bloom
Wave after wave of color brightens once-dull pasture land at the Victory Garden.

Besides the grand sweep of the long view, a number of more localized color effects were quite eye-catching. For instance, the hot electric-pink flowers of Aster novae-angliae 'Alma Potschke' looked superb behind the softer pink of the shorter Sedum x 'Autumn Joy' in front of it, and the forgiving silver gray of Artemisia 'Powis Castle' right beside.

It has been an unusually slow season for plant development. By mid-September, Coreopsis verticillata and Phlox paniculata are usually gone by, and most of the asters are in full swing. This year, the coreopsis and phlox were still looking pretty good by that time, and there was scarcely a flower abloom on any of our asters or their fall-flowering relatives, boltonia and chrysanthemum.

Many of the asters have been late to flower, but Aster novae-angliae 'Alma Potschke' is electric.

Not everything has worked out perfectly. The roses, which were intended as deep background to the herbaceous perennials, did not grow nearly so quickly as the perennials did in their first season. Consequently, many of them can hardly be seen at all, except from the backside of the border. Our hope is that the roses will come into their own next year.

The attrition rate among the hundreds of plants installed has been very low, so very little replacement will be required next season. All that's needed is a bit of fine-tuning, some careful editing.

Pink blooms
The Sedum x 'Autumn Joy' is resplendent with pale pink blooms.

October is the ideal time for planting spring-flowering bulbs. Toward the rear of the border we will plant scores of the tall Allium 'Purple Sensation.' The middle will be filled with drifts of daffodils — hundreds upon hundreds of bulbs planted between the crowns of our perennials. And in the front of the border, right to the edge, will go pockets of at least a half dozen kinds of our favorite species of tulips.

Once the hard freezes have knocked down the lingering greenery — late November into early December — the remnants of the past season's glory will be cut back to the ground, save only for the bare frames of woody plants scattered in the background. We'd love to let this task wait till spring, but that would only make the job more difficult because winter snows will have laid flat those dried-up stalks, and because in spring there is much, much else to do.

trowel icon Read more about how this project got started in Kip Anderson's "Birth of a Perennial Border."

For more information on resources used on the show, visit our Resource Directory

This segment appears in show #2824.

Published August 31, 2007