A "Model" Flower Bed: Showcasing Tall Perennials

Elegant and upright, with bold beautiful flowers atop lean stalks, tall perennials are like the models of gardens. Get to know them here, so you can pick the best ones for your design.

Excerpted from Garden Design
  • Bears Breeches Adds Tropical Feel to Garden

    Bear's Breeches

    What bear's breeches' majestic spikes of purple-bracked white flowers lack in longevity - they only bloom from late spring to midsummer - they make up for in the vase; cut stems last well in arrangements. This clump-forming perennial prefers rich, well-drained soil in full or partial sun, and grows to 5 feet tall and 24-36 inches wide.

  • Aconitum Sparks Monkshood

    Common Monkshood

    Monkshoods' upright stems bear deep violet, hooded flowers from mid- to late summer. They perform best in moist, fertile soil with exposure to full sun, and look particularly attractive in a border. Those monkshood plantings which meet the upper reaches of their height potential - 4 to 5 feet - may need staking. Parents and pet owners be aware: all parts of monkshood are poisonous.

  • Anise Hyssop has Licorice Scented Leaves

    Anise Hyssop

    With its licorice-scented leaves and spikes of violet-blue flowers which can reach to 5 feet, anise hyssop suits a mixed border. For paler-colored flowers, try the cultivar 'Alabaster', which has delicate white blooms. Anise hyssop prefers a sunny site, with rich, fertile, well-drained soil.

  • Lovely Japanese Anemone

    Japanese Anemone

    The 'Honorine Jobert' Japanese anemone bears white flowers on wiry stems from late summer to mid-fall. Plant it in rich, moist soil with exposure to full or partial sun. The Japanese anemone can grow to 5 feet tall and indefinite width.

  • Clum Forming Aster Attracts Bees and Butterflies


    Aster manages that great feat of producing long-lasting, cheerful looking flowers from a strong-growing, low-maintenance base. It brightens up borders, can be grown in containers and is also good for cutting. Plant aster in well-drained soil that will receive full sun, and watch it grow to 4 feet tall and 32 inches wide.

  • Graceful Giant Seakale

    Giant Kale

    Looking like a mass of confetti, the tiny white flowers of perennial ornamental giant kale (also known as Also, ornamental sea kale) seem to float in mid-air, where they attract bees and other beneficial insects. With a love of full sun and well-drained soil, giant kale will tolerate coastal conditions, where it can grow to 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide.

  • Purple Center of Artichoke Thistle


    The cardoon, also called artichoke thistle, produces an extraordinarily large and interesting brush-like flowerhead. Though the bracts may look fierce, the cardoon is actually tender; plant it in well-drained soil where it can receive full sun, protect it from strong winds and, in cold areas, mulch around the plant base. The cardoon can grow to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

  • Delphinium Provides Old Fashioned Cottage Garden Favorite


    The hardy Blue Fountains delphinium, shown here, is the ideal choice for an exposed garden or mixed border in full sun and well-drained soil; at 32 to 39 inches tall, their early summer blooms can withstand wind and do not need staking.

    For a much taller plant, go with Pacific hyrid delphinium, which can grow to between 4 and 6 1/2 feet tall. After their midsummer flowering, cut back the stems to encourage a second blooming in late summer and early fall. Due to their height, Pacific hybrid delphiniums must be protected from strong winds.

  • Blue Globe Thistle Known for Profuse Blue Blooms

    Globe Thistle

    The globe thistle is a good plant for a wild garden, with interesting, spherical flowerheads that bees can't resist. Shown here, the variety 'Taplow Blue' has powder-blue flowers. It grows to between 1 1/2 and 4 feet tall and 30 inches wide in ideal growing conditions: full sun and well-drained soil.

  • Sea Holly Produces Impressive Foliage

    Sea Holly

    Sea holly's long, sword-shaped leaves and stalkless, greenish-white flowers make a dramatic silhouette in a border or, when dried, a unique addition to a flower arrangement. Plant sea holly in well-drained or moist soil, with exposure to full sun, and watch it soar to 3 to 5 feet tall and 24 inches wide.

  • Ornamental Herb


    Fennel is well known for its edible parts: its seeds, bulb and leaves taste faintly of licorice or anise. But it can also bring ethereal beauty to your garden with its feathery leaves and small yellow flowers. Fennel can grow to 6 feet tall and 18 inches wide in ideal growing conditions: full sun and well-drained soil.

  • Lemon Queen Perennials are Easy on the Eyes


    Sunflowers are always a good choice for the back of a border and 'Lemon Queen,' whose pale yellow flowers and slightly darker eyes are shown here, is no exception. 'Lemon Queen' grows 5-1/2 feet tall and 4 feet wide, and gives a long-lasting display from late summer to mid-fall.

    To keep the show going, plant 'Monarch' as well. The spidery blooms of this sunflower, which will grow to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, appear from early to mid-fall. Both of these varieties love full sun and well-drained or moist soil.

  • Leucanthemum Serotina Perennials for Back of Border


    Who doesn't love a sweet, simple daisy? The giant daisy, shown here, can grow to 5 feet tall. Because it lasts well in a vase, it's excellent for cutting. A smaller option, at 36 inches tall, is a Shasta daisy, for example the 'Wirral Supreme' variety which produces long-lasting white flowers with pale yellow eyes. Plant daisies in fertile soil that is moist or wet, with exposure to as much sun as possible.

  • Coral Plume Pairs Well with Ornamental Grasses

    Plume Poppy

    The pink-flowered 'Kelway's Coral' plume poppy is at its peak in early and midsummer, when large floral sprays sit above a sea of gray-green leaves. A showy plant that can grow to 7 feet tall and become invasive if not monitored, it is best planted on its own as an eye-catching screen, or at the back of a large mixed border. Plant the plume poppy in full sun and well-drained or moist soil.

  • Honey Bush Silver Green Leaves

    Honey Bush

    Grown more for its gray-green, tooth-edged leaves than its flowers, the honey bush (also called honey flower) forms a striking, angular focal point when left to develop to its 10 feet tall, 10 feet wide potential. The honey bush loves full sun and well-drained or moist soil and can tolerate sea air, but it cannot survive frost.

  • Fast Growing Japanese Banana

    Hardy Banana

    If you want to bring a infuse a cooler climate garden with a tropical feel, pick the hardy banana plant, which can flower under adverse conditions. At up to 15 feet tall it is ideal as a feature plant, or the centerpiece of a tropical display. Plant the hardy banana in moist soil where it will receive full sun, and protect its leaves from strong winds.

  • The Striking New Zealand Flax

    New Zealand Flax

    Long, thick, sword-shaped leaves burst forth from the base of the New Zealand flax, growing up to 9 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The red-purple foliage of the Purpureum Group, shown here, stands out in a border, contrasting well with paler varieties or grasses. The plant likes fertile, well-drained or moist soil in full sun; mulch the base in winter in frost-prone areas.

  • White Cloud Poppy Tree

    Coulter's Matilija Poppy

    The large, crinkly white petals of 'White Cloud' Coulter's Matilija poppy surround a yellow stamen center to produce an interesting display pleasingly reminiscent of a fried egg. Plant Coulter's Matilija Poppy in full sun and well-drained soil, and protect it from cold, strong winds and frost. With a potential to grow to 8 feet tall and indefinite width, this plant will become a perennial once it becomes established.

  • Bog Sage Known for Blue Flowers and Tall Growth

    Bog Sage

    A moisture-loving 6-footer suited to the back of a sunny border, the bog sage comes into its own from late summer to mid-fall, when blue flowers emerge above its toothed leaves.

  • Violet Tall Verbena

    Brazilian Verbena

    Brazilian verbena's branched flowerheads look great darting through a grassy border from midsummer to early fall. It can be grown at the back of beds, but its slim stems, which grow to 6 feet tall, also look striking at the front. Plant Brazilian verbena in well-drained or moist soil where it will receive full sun.

  • Soft Culvers Root Plants

    Culver's Root

    From summer to fall, the dainty flower spikes of perennial Culver's Root bring white, pink and purple shades to border plantings. For a pure white-flowered variety, look for V. virginicum 'Album' and grow it with dark foliage plants to emphasize their contrast. Culver's root will grow to 6 feet tall and 18 inches wide in ideal growing conditions: full or partial sun and moist soil.

Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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