The Sunny Border: Sun-Loving Perennials for Season-Long Color

From a classic perennial border to a serendipitous planting of prairie or meadow wildflowers and grasses to an informal mixture of old-fashioned cottage-garden favorites, there are many ways to create a profusely blooming garden of sun-loving plants. In this book you'll learn how to make the most of the colors, forms, and textures of perennials in stunning combinations that keep your garden in flower from spring to frost.

  • Introduction: The Sunny Border
  • Growing Sun-Loving Plants: Lessons From Nature
  • Designing a Sunny Border
  • Planting and Maintenance
  • Encyclopedia of Sun-Loving Perennials
  • Perennials for Dry Areas
  • Perennials for Moist Areas
  • Perennials for Wet Areas
  • USDA Hardiness Zone Map
  • For More Information
  • Plant Sources
  • Credits
  • Index

Introduction: The Sunny border

by C. Colston Burrell

America is addicted to perennials. Why? Pundits claim that perennial gardening is less work than replanting annuals every season and that perennials are more interesting than traditional low-maintenance shrubs and groundcovers. While this is true, I think the main reason is that people experience pleasure in tending a garden. Sure, we want low maintenance, but we enjoy the act of gardening, not just having a garden.

Design and planting are fun enough, but it's the daily or weekly interaction with my plants that I love. Discovering the emerging noses of the first daffodils during spring cleanup or expectantly checking the buds on a favorite peony make gardening so satisfying. Besides, most perennials have something interesting to offer in the way of foliage, flowers, or seed heads throughout the year, whereas annuals produce only blooms at their peak, after which they are yanked out and tossed.

Filled with a riot of colors, shapes, and wonderful scents, a flower garden in bloom is a feast for all our senses, as well as a source of food and shelter for birds, insects, and other wildlife.

By mimicking the structure and functions of a native wetland, you can create a water garden that is beautiful, biodiverse and easy to maintain.

For many, the perfect garden is a sun-drenched English perennial border, resplendent with masses of herbaceous plants in colorful sweeps. Yet not every gardener has a spot for such a grand display, or the time to maintain it. Fortunately, there are other ways to enjoy the beautiful array of plants that thrive with a full day of sunshine. A sunny Border can consist of a purely wild planting of prairie or meadow wildflowers and grasses, for example, or an informal mixture of old-fashioned cottage-garden favorites.

What's more, herbaceous perennials need not be the only component of a sunny border. A well-designed perennial garden may also feature bulbs, grasses, ferns, and shrubs in what is called a mixed border. This allows you to layer plantings to great effect, the way nature layers its wild gardens. A garden with many vertical layers affords a high degree of aesthetic complexity and biological diversity, as well as structure and bloom throughout the season. Complexity and diversity are what make these gardens exciting.

To grow plants effectively, you must first understand the ground rules. "Growing Sun-Loving Plants" explores the environmental imperatives that shape the gardens we create and provides tips on how to transform nature's lessons into exciting and successful plantings. "Designing a Sunny border" shows how to make the most of the colors, forms, and textures of perennials in stunning combinations that keep the garden in flower from spring through frost, as well as how to extend the season with foliage and decorative seed heads. "Planting and Maintenance" gives you step-by-step instructions on how to get your garden off the drawing board and into the ground.

Finally, the "Encyclopedia of Sun-Loving Perennials" covers more than 100 dramatic plants grouped by their soil-moisture preferences, from wet to dry, to help you create successful combinations of plants that share the same requirements. A list of nearly 100 flowering shrubs helps you layer your garden for season-long beauty. I hope that with this handbook as your guide, you will discover the many joys of gardens that celebrate the sun.

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