Perennials with purple or similarly dark leaves are most valuable in the garden, especially when contrasted with foliage that is green or yellow. Such plants are best planted in moderation, as their effect can be a little sombre.
Borders of colour: Lupins are popular perennials, largely due to the fact that they thrive in the English climate, but also because of their striking shape and colours.
- Lupinus 'Lulu' is a hardy perennial which can be grown from seed and will flower in the first year. Reaching a height of 60cm, it is shorter than other lupins and is therefore known as a dwarf lupin. Despite its size Lupinus 'Lulu' is a splendid plant with a good colour range and is ideal for herbaceous borders in small gardens.
- The sowing period for lupins is January to July if they are to flower in the first year. Seeds should be sown in planters or trays and covered with a little compost.
- Lupins need full sun to partial shade, and actually prefer sandy soil to a rich soil, as the latter encourages soft growth.
A scented garden: There are many scented and perfumed perennials. Choose phlox, sweet rocket (Hesperis), wallflowers, carnations, romneya and violets for a garden filled with fragrance. Aromatic plants like mint, lemon balm, anthemis, monarda, sage, verbena and santolina form a fragrant background to which you can add new plants every year. Lavender, although actually an evergreen shrub rather than a perennial, is one of the most popular scented plants and is fairly easy to grow. Position fragrant plants along garden paths so that you can savour them as you pass by.
Classic restraint, with a twist: A flower bed made up of only one or two species is easy to maintain, but your garden could look flat if this is the only style of planting it contains. There are several ways to add interest to these beds. Give a little more presence to your flower bed by introducing a few lupins, delphiniums or tall campanulas at irregular intervals.
- Experiment with colour by adding contrasting touches. Introduce a bright shade if the flower bed is dark, white if blooms are red, and blue or deep violet if the bed consists of warm pink, orange, salmon or yellow.
- Combine these two approaches for an even more striking effect. Plant several midnight blue delphiniums in a large flower bed of yellow achillea, or let some crimson lupins emerge from a carpet of blue geraniums.
Compact borders save time: Perennial borders can be a good idea for gardeners who are pressed for time. Opt for compact species that retain their regular shape over the years with little maintenance. The best species, from the smallest to the tallest, are perennial candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), which is covered in white flowers in the spring, bellflowers (Campanula carpatica,C. 'G.F. 'Wilson', C. portenschlagiana or C. poscharksyana), oregano (Origanum vulgare), carnations (Dianthus plumarius) and common rue (Ruta graveolens), with its dense grey-blue foliage. Other taller species include geranium varieties such as Geranium sanguineum, G. renardii or G, pratense, common bistort (Persicaria bistorta) and catmint (Nepeta nervosa).
Lobelia 'Queen Victoria'
Striking red flowers are carried on spikes from summer into early, autumn. Sturdy, erect stems and narrow leaves are a deep, reddish purple. It requires moist soils..
This creeping evergreen forms a dense tuft of narrow, strap-shaped, blackish purple leaves. Slender spikes bearing tiny lilac flowers are produced in summer.
Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens'
The downy, aromatic evergreen leaves of this shrubby perennial are flushed purple when new, and mature to greyish green. Flower spikes are carried in summer.
Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red'
The young leaves and shoots of this erect perennial are a rich purple in spring but fade to green-tinged purple when the tubular flowers appear in early summer..
Sedum telephium subsp. maximum
Bold clumps of succulent stems, clothed in large, rich dark maroon leaves, produce flattened heads of tiny, reddish white flowers in late summer.
Purple-leaved fringe cups, Clumps of evergreen, boldly veined, reddish purple leaves are heart shaped. Above these, spikes of nodding, pinkish cream flowers rise in late spring.
Dig up the crown with a fork, lifting the rootball without damaging the roots. Shake to remove the soil.
Divide the clump into at least two sections, using your hands for small plants or a fork for larger ones.
Immediately replant these sections, selecting those with healthy roots and removing the middle sections of plants that are getting old.
Replace the soil removed around the hole and firm well with your hand for small plants or with your foot for large perennials. Then water.