Designing with Perennials





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Some helpful articles scattered around the pages here -

Coping with the 
dastardly Lily beetle.

Shrub Pruning Tips

Winter Garden Protection

Correct planting of 
new trees & shrubs

Increasing Drought Tolerance.

"Low"maintenance gardening?





Rule of Thumb tip
If you always aim at positioning a new plant together with a complimentary partner to help it pop, it's hard to go wrong!  Building groups of plants that contrast and highlight each other is the key to good design.  

Garden maintenance habits also play a design role. Manipulating a plant's height, flowering time, and rebloom possibilities, for example.


(Under construction.     This is a new page I'm putting together - more articles and lots of photos to come!  E.)


































A beautiful perennial garden isn't simply a collection of beautiful individual plants.  It's the group dynamic that makes a garden turn heads. 
It takes many years to get to know the hundreds of plants that can form complimentary plant partnerships, but here's the main secret - it's not just about the flowers!  It's at least 50% about what surrounds the flower - the foliage colour ... plant form or shape ...  leaf texture ... etc. of the plants in the "eye-full" group.  Very quiet plants that aren't "wow" in themselves, are often the most important ones in a good design for their support-the-star role.


Here's how I go about designing any garden, and some rules of thumb to follow - 

No plant should be just put in a garden wherever it
 might fit best or in height order.  Always consider the overall garden dynamics and find it a suitable contrasting and supportive partner. 


My formula for any garden design is to create individual eye grabbing vignettes throughout the bed - groups of at least 3 plants where each has a different foliage texture, colour, or stature, and where only one of them is in flower at a time, with the other two playing a supporting role. 


With this formula your garden is constantly changing with something fresh happening all through the season, while each flower has a design partner to help it look better than it would otherwise.  Sometimes you might want two plants flowering at the same time, but still, the plants should compliment one another in texture, stature, or some other way - not be just two pretty flowers side by side.  Two "stars" on any stage just end up battling one another for attention instead of blending together harmoniously.  Aim at the principle of one "star" at a time, with complimentary supporting "actors" to help the star look its best.  Or, in a shade garden where flowers aren't plentiful, groups of plants could be based on strong foliage texture and colour contrast only, with perhaps a pop of bright foliage colour as the star. 


Contrasting textures and plant shape is the key to a good perennial garden design.  Flowers are just the bonus!  Like a lovely outfit you put together to head out to a party, flowers are the jewellery, not the foundation garments. 


Think of a beautiful painting - is it not even more beautiful when
fitted into a suitable frame with a complimentary background matte?  It's the same kind of thinking - one "star" with supporting players to help it shine bright, makes for a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. 


and ... don't forget to have fun! 
Enjoying the creative explorations of the many possibilities, is at least 50% of the pleasure growing a garden offers. 


                                                                  Evelyn Wolf









The plants.  Oh the possibilities!  Where to start?

Annuals can be relied on for tons of splash and
colour, but there's nothing like perennials
to ignite a collector's passion!


I've been an obsessive collector of perennial plants for well over 30 years by now.  Whenever I discover a new plant genera or species that appears garden worthy, it seems I'm compelled to start a collection of as many cultivars/varieties as I have room for!    I justify my unbridled plant shopping frenzies by telling myself that I'm purchasing plants for my clients' gardens, but somehow it always quickly turns into a "one for them, two for me" shopping trip.


When I get home and see the sea of plants I need to find room for, I justify the purchases again by saying to myself "well ... I'll be able to report on some unusual new plants in my newsletter".   This gets me past the moment quilt free, but it turns into a Catch-22 since I need to spend so much time looking after my plant collection that I don't have time to write any newsletters! 


Ah well - I know I'm not alone in this plant collecting obsession - there's lots of us out there and we're all having a blast!  Any lingering guilt soon fades as we revel in our new discoveries.

                                                                   Cheers! Evelyn






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consultations - design & planting - expert shrub pruning - garden maintenance - workshops and classes. 
Over 25 years experience designing, creating, maintaining, talking about, teaching, and writing about, perennial plants and gardens!

This type of loose topiary, or bonsai-like pruning is the best thing to do with an old overgrown evergreen, instead of ripping it out.Email:

GARDEN POSSIBILITIES  Perennial Garden Services
Evelyn Wolf, garden consultant,  905 478-7395 or cell 289-716-1408
                               your perennial garden expert

20507 Leslie St.  (NE corner of Leslie & Queensville Sdrd.  By appt. only please.).   
Queensville (East Gwillimbury), Ontario, L0G 1R0  

All photos and articles Evelyn Wolf, 2018.  Please email for permission to use.