A perennial is a plant that lives three or more years, and a hardy plant survives and thrives inside a specific area, but the best rugged perennials do more than merely live long and flourish. They prosper in many locations, adapt quickly to the neighborhood surroundings and create dramatic blooms over handsome foliage — all with a minimum of maintenance and attention.
The quintessential plant of this Provencal or Mediterranean garden, lavender’s long-lasting spikes of tiny flowers lend grace to perennial gardens. Drought-tolerant, sun- loving lavender fills places where other plants may whither. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the option of perfume chefs and producers. It grows to about 2 feet tall with gray-green leaves, and blossoms in whites, pinks and purple; “Munstead” and “Hidcote” varieties are widely available. Spanish lavender (L.stoechas) grows to 3 feet using silver gray leaves topped with purple to purple flowers from spring to mid-summer. A third type of lavender, lavendin (L. x intermedia), branches freely, growing into 2- to 3-foot plants that can be utilized as a low-growing hedge.
Once considered weeds fit only for roadside ditches, tawny daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) gained respectability due to the efforts of geneticists like Arlow Burdett Stout, along with an army of enthusiastic breeders and hobbyists. A rainbow of colors and colorations grow across wide ranges, such as U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10. Grassy foliage grows throughout the growing season, renewing the plant’s appearance throughout the season. An range of hybrids creates a long succession of bloom. In a Mediterranean climate, some plants rebloom on semi-evergreen plants. Daylilies blossom best with four to six hours of morning sun, but many grow happily in dappled shade or full sun, making them equally at home in a cottage garden as ground retainers on a hillside. Favorite magnets of American Hemerocallis Society West Coast members comprise “Bill Norris,” “Point of View” and “Star of India.”
True lilies (Lilium spp.) Start blooming after the daffodils fade in spring and blossom direct through autumn. Early Asiatic hybrids return to Oriental hybrids and regal trumpet hybrids. Several species lilies, such as Columbian lily (L. columbianum), Humboldt lily (L. humboldtii) along with California’s native leopard lily (L. pardalinum), which flowers from May to June, are at home in woodland and native gardens. Hybrid lilies thrive in full sun, although some native species favor woodland-edge exposures. Lilies also reproduce prolifically. A colony of three to five bulbs will grow into a thicket of stalks topped by heaps of blossoms within five decades, supplying more lilies for the garden.
Newer shrub roses (Rosa spp.) Have been bred to be much more disease-resistant and self-cleaning than the long-stemmed hybrid tea roses of decades ago that need constant pruning and spraying. “Sally Holmes,” a tree rose that can grow into a sizable hedge on a land line, produces big clusters of white flowers with salmon highlights, along with Graham Thomas along with other David Austin English roses grow big, full flowers (Graham Thomas is yellow) on big floribunda shrubs. Shrub roses bloom continuously; plant them in December or January for a complete year of blossom.