Buying for Bloom Power

February 15th, 2007

We just got dumped on with a big load of snow, so this is a perfect time to talk about flowers.

Seriously though, it is mid-February and the gardening catalogues have started to arrive in full force. I know I am starting to think about what new plants I’ll buy this year, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, so I thought now would be a good time to blog about plant selections.

When I first started gardening I was most interested in large exotic flowers or those with complex blooms, like irises. However, irises only bloom for a few short weeks, at that, and that just isn’t enough. Now I’ve transitioned into preferring plants that can bloom over long periods of time, or even plants I get just for their ornamental foliage, which is something that doesn’t fade.

So, here are some of my picks for flowers with long lasting blooms.

‘Happy Returns’ daylily, or any of the “Returns” daylilies, bloom like crazy. ‘Stella de Oro’ is a good choice as well. I’ve seen both of these plants bloom as late as November here in Michigan (got luckily with no early frosts). I especially like the “Returns” daylilies because of their smaller stature, which makes them excellent as a border. Really, I can’t think of a better border of a bed or path than one lined with a row on repeat blooming daylilies. I’ve done this in my back garden.

Of larger daylilies, those with larger or more complex blooms, the best rebloomer I’ve had so far is a new variety called “Blue Ridge Shepherd Boy.” I’ve only had this plant for 1 year, but it rebloomed like crazy for me this first year, more than any other tet daylily variety I have (and I have dozens and dozens).

Rudbeckia, known as “Black Eyed Susan” are as simple of a flower form as you can get, it is a yellow daisy. However they can bloom for a long period of time, and my favorite variety, ‘Marmalade‘, blooms for at least 6 weeks longer than common rudbeckia you typically see planted. ‘Marmalade’ rudbeckia blooms are also about 4x larger than normal. The only downside with this plant is that it can get top heavy and sometimes needs support, especially after a heavy storm.

‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea I’ve blogged about before, but I love it for sheer bloom length. Literally, all summer long. Once bloomed the flowers do not even fade away, they just deepen to a darker red and stay that way until frost.

I’m also a big fan of the common hardy purple iceplant, delosperma cooperii, as it blooms from late May until frost for me.

My final pick is any type of tulip. I know what you’re thinking, tulips don’t bloom for very long. Ahh… yes… but they can be planted underneath other plants. So you plant your tulips underneath a layer of Rudbeckia and you get early Spring blooms without actually using up any garden space.

Of course many annuals or tender perennials will bloom nonstop all summer, but then you have to either dig them up and store them and hope they don’t rot, or plant them again in the Spring. I know I, and I think most gardeners, prefer plants we can leave in the ground for a few years. So among those perennials, the above are my favorites for long lasting blooms. Do you have any recommendations that’d fit the bill?

2 Responses to “Buying for Bloom Power”

  1. Patrick  Says:

    Hi Chris,

    I too was fixated on large showy blooms, but of course most of those don’t last too long. I’ve been reading a Monty Don book to get an idea of how to make the garden bloom from Spring to frost. Here in Seattle it’s much more mild but I really love Choisya ternata because of the foliage and scented nice scented blooms; Evergreen and cold hardy I think. Good luck.


    Patrick – I Heart Gardening

  2. Michael Kukielka  Says:

    Some of my favorite long-lasting flowers are perennial Geraniums, Baloon Flowers, and Yarrow. Generally, I try to structure my gardens so that something is blooming at all times. The hardest part of that equation is making sure that the balance is right, otherwise I tend to be stuck with beds full of foliage and few flowers during big chunks of the growing season. That’s where the annuals come in handy!

    The best way to enjoy your short lived blooms is to take LOTS of photos. I must have thousands and I can’t get enough!

    I did plant some of my first Hydrangeas last season and I’m eager to see what happens. My neighbor has tons of them but she really struggles to keep them alive (and she is the most proficient gardener I know). When I saw her struggle with them I thought I had better save my money since they are expensive experiments ;). But, I must try everything at least once! Hopefully I’ll get good results, I believe I have the perfect sheltered location for them so they should take the winter better than hers. I bought them at Home Depot for $14 each, she buys them at Bordines for about $30 each.

    I have a lot of shade in my beds because of the well established landscape design so I tend to use Impatiens heavily. They require lots of watering, but generous fertilizing can produce MASSIVE plants which stun onlookers. I’ve gotten my Impatiens to 3′ in height!

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