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Space Saving Perennials

  Sometimes when I look at my garden all I can see are the plants that I want to grow. How can I find the room for new plants? My garden is small and I have so many wonderful plants already. It’s tough, but I usually remove a few of my old favorites to make room for the new ones. 

  My friends and family love this time of the year and the plants they will inevitably inherit. If you’re like me, maybe it’s time to concentrate on selecting some new additions for your garden that don’t require removing your established plants. Here are some of my favorite sun-loving, compact perennials.

Ornamental onions

  A group of perennials that I have grown in the past and loved are the alliums, or ornamental onions. There are 400 to 500 different species to choose from. Generally, all alliums need to be planted in full sun and in a well-drained location. 

The largest is Allium giganteum, giant onion, and is one of my favorites. The flower is purple and born atop a flower stalk that can be 3 to 4 feet tall. The flower itself can be 6 to 8 inches wide. The giant onion blooms in late spring in Kentucky, as most alliums do. The foliage of the giant onion seems sparse in comparison to the huge bloom. The foliage is bluish-gray, flat, about 2 inches wide, and emerges as a rosette (reminiscent of an amaryllis). During or right after flowering, the leaves will begin to yellow and die down until next year. This is why it is important to have garden markers for your ornamental onions so you won’t accidentally dig them up or damage them while working in the garden. 

Red-hot poker 

  Another perennial that I like to grow that doesn’t require much space is Kniphofia uvaria, known as red-hot poker or torch lily. This plant requires full sun and well-drained soils, making it an excellent drought-tolerant plant once established. 

  The foliage is sword-shaped and a light gray-green, generally about 1 inch wide and 2 to 3 feet long. Even when flowering the plants are rarely over 4 feet tall. This plant is often mistaken for a yucca when the blooms are not present. Blooming in early summer, the flowers range in color from red to pale yellow. On older varieties, the flowers at the bottom of the raceme, or flowering part of the plant, open first, fade to yellow as the upper flowers open, then become bright orange, resembling a lit torch.

Stella the petite daylily

  A daylily that I mention frequently, because it seems to have so many applications in the garden, is Hemerocallis x ‘Stella de Oro.’ This daylily is considered to be a dwarf variety, growing only 12 to 14 inches tall, and blooms much longer into the season than many of the older varieties. I have learned that granular fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 6-4-4, applied just as the new growth begins and again after the first flush of flowers is finished, really helps the plants set more flower buds. As with any daylily they need a sunny, well-drained spot in the garden, and should be dug and divided about every third or fourth year.

More pinks, violets, yellows

  Here are a few more that you may want to look for this year. There’s a saponaria called ‘Max Frei,’ with pink flowers, growing 6 to 8 inches tall; a campanula called ‘Joan Elliot,’ with deep-violet flowers, growing about 18 inches tall; a daylily called ‘Tinkerbell,’ with numerous yellow flowers, growing 12 to 16 inches tall; an evening primrose called ‘Siskiyou,’ with pink flowers, that grows 8 to 10 inches tall; and a salvia called ‘Purple Knock Out’ that grows 16 inches tall.

  Give one of these new plants a try this year; they don’t take up huge amounts of room, and you shouldn’t be forced to remove any of your tried-and-true favorites. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite perennial.

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