There's a perfect one for every gardener.
Best of all, perennials stage an Oscar-worthy garden performance that improves year after year. To get started on your own perennial paradise, see how we transformed turf into troops of blossoms.
Perennials are an affordable floral luxury that can be grown in any size garden, from the tiniest side yard to the longest border. For this article, we created a perennial garden in a 13- by 24-foot raised bed edged with a stone wall. The garden juts out into what was one large grassy area, creating a blooming focal point in the backyard lawn.
Unlike their here-today-gone-tomorrow annual flower cousins, perennials paint the garden with hues that grow richer through the years. Give your perennials a solid start with good soil preparation, adding organic material to your planting beds as needed. Seasonal maintenance tasks for perennials vary, from staking tall flower spikes to cutting plants back in fall or early spring to dividing crowded clumps of plants. Check with your local nursery for care guidelines specific to your region.
To design your perennial beds, review plant catalogs and garden books to find flowers you like. Narrow your wish list by selecting plants that fit your growing conditions. For season-long color, coordinate bloom times on paper before buying plants.
Remember that perennials are just as picturesque when planted with annuals, trees, dwarf conifers, flowering shrubs, or even vegetables. You don't need a large garden devoted solely to perennials to make an impact.
The stone wall surrounding this garden is less than a foot tall -- just enough to define the garden's shape and give it a look of permanence. Here's how to build it.
Use a rope or supple garden hose to draw out the edge of your perennial bed. Once you have decided on an overall shape, spray-paint the bed's outline onto the ground to mark the planting area to be cleared.
To set the level of the stone wall, hammer stakes into the ground along the painted line. Mark the height of the wall on each stake. Connect the marks with a taut string and then check that the wall is level.
Remove grass inside the stakes. To build a stone wall without mortar, fill crevices between and behind stones with soil. Tilt stones slightly down and back into the bed for best stability.
As you build the wall, use the taut string as a guide for wall height. On a sloping site, you'll want to adjust the string's height to compensate for the slope to ensure that the finished wall appears level.
Leave the string in place until the entire wall is finished. Finish the top of the wall with large, flat stones. If you want plants to grow from the wall itself, leave some nooks and crannies for planting between stones.
Perennials prefer fertile soil that's well-drained, so fill your bed with topsoil enriched with organic matter (compost, peat moss, leaf mold, or composted manure). If you start your perennial garden in spring with nursery stock in larger containers, you can expect a few blooms during the first year.
The real payback from perennials starts in year two. Here's what the garden looked like the second year after it was planted. The perennials are beginning to fill in and bloom with enthusiasm.