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Cannon: Perennials offer year-round beauty
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There is a big, big world of perennials. Now is the great time to select, plan and design for year-round color and harmony themes in the garden using these wonderful flowering plants.

Perennials are plants that come back every year. Annuals grow and bloom for just one growing season. There are woody plants such as trees, shrubs and evergreens that are perennials, but for our discussion, I will talk about herbaceous perennials.

Herbaceous means any green leafy growth that is firm but not woody. These perennials go to sleep under ground in the winter and re-emerge in spring and summer. They store their energy in underground structures such as bulbs, corms, tubers, roots and crowns.

Collecting a good assortment of herbaceous perennials will give you blooms almost all year if you select the right ones.

Make a list of what types of plants you want in the garden. Look through magazines and gardening books and pick what is attractive to your taste. Consider the height, spread, sun or shade requirements, textures, colors and fragrance. These are all qualities to consider.

Putting the right combination of plants together to achieve a certain goal is important. Think about what you want to contrast, the shapes of the leaves or how colors complement one another. You can get lots of ideas from books and gardens.

Selecting a good site is important for sunshine and drainage. Most perennials love at least six hours of full sun, but there are a few that flourish in part shade. Good water drainage is essential, so make sure the soil is amended well with coarse materials such as compost, manure, river sand or bark and leaf mulch. Till the soil and add these organic matters into the soil at least 8 to 10 inches.

Preparing the soil before you plant gives perennials a good jump-start for success year after year.

The best time to plant perennials is in late winter/early spring or autumn so they will have time to get established before the stress of extreme heat or cold. They require watering at least once a week. Once they are planted, spread some mulch 2 inches away from the base of the plant. Feed with a basic 10- 10-10 fertilizer twice during the growing season.

Perennials require some maintenance from year to year to keep them in tip-top shape. Most require deadheading at the end of the growing season, but it is well worth the time to keep them pleasing to the eye.

Here are a few suggestions for a sun-loving perennial garden. Try planting some yellow yarrow, violet sage and yellow coreopsis together. This is a pretty, drought-tolerant combination for the landscape. Or plant Ruby Glow Sedum in front of a large display of Goldstrum black-eyed Susan. This combination adds interest into the late summer garden. Also, take light-colored foliage plants and plant them in front of tall purple-themed perennials.

Lenten rose or hellebores are an easy choice for a sun-shade spot. This late winter bloomer can be combined with snowdrops and other spring bulbs that begin blooming in early spring to create a soft combination of whites, pinks and muted purples.

Do a little homework in the beginning with selection and soil prep and you are off to a good start. Now is a great time to plant perennials in the garden to achieve some eye-popping colorful displays through the warmer months into winter.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293. Her column appears biweekly and on