In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
May, 2012
Regional Report

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The tissue-paper blossoms of the tree peony shrub are perfectly at home in the perennial garden.

Embellish Your Perennial Garden

Perennial gardens are amazing. But so often we neglect to think about all the other things that can go into a perennial garden other than perennials. Gardens that have a plethora of blooming, beautiful herbaceous plants benefit from the inclusion of shrubs and bulbs to give the garden structural "bones" and help continue its beauty from the high blooming season into fall and winter as well.

When you plan your perennial garden, or even if you have one already and want to embellish it, consider these other kinds of plants to add graceful finishing touches.

Tree Peony
Tree peonies are amazing shrubs, even if their cost makes them something of an investment. These hardy shrubs bloom with large, crepe paper-textured blossoms long before herbaceous peonies show their heads. Tree peonies come in dark purple, soft pink, salmon, silvery white and deep red. Their blossoms may be ruffled doubles or elegant singles with bright golden stamens. Their flowers are sometimes dinner-plate size, and the plants can grow from three to seven feet tall. All they need to thrive for decades is well-drained soil and dappled sunlight.

Shrub Roses
Shrub roses need not be left to the rose garden. They are hardy, disease-resistant plants that often bloom all season long. There are many, many forms, from upright to arching to groundcover roses, with all the colors and scents roses are so famous for. The blossoms may be single, double, or triple. The colorful rose hips left after the blossoms fade provide a bonus for fall and winter interest. Shrub roses don't need winter protection, and the only pruning necessary is to trim any dead wood left after the winter.

Bulbs are the perfect complement to herbaceous perennials. With a little planning, you can have a show of bulbs that will begin blooming in early March and continue well into summer. Putting bulbs into the perennial garden not only gives the advantage of early bloom before any other perennials, but also lets the foliage of the perennials conceal the fading bulb foliage. While it's important to let a bulb's foliage die back naturally so it can produce food to feed the bulb for next year, it can be unsightly. If other perennials grow up around the yellowing bulb foliage and make it less noticeable, You may be less tempted to snip it off prematurely.

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