An Annual Interval for Perennials


According to the article cited in our earlier post, A Year’s Worth of Sales, August is the month for purchasing perennials and shrubs. But what does that mean for us here in Portland? According to the much-missed Dulcy Mahar, a longtime columnist for the Oregonian‘s Home & Gardens section, “to forgo perennials in a climate such as this is tantamount to a botanical felony.”

Some articles we’ve read strongly advocate planting perennials in the fall as a matter of course for some key reasons: it gives the plants a chance to establish strong roots; soil is typically warmer than in the spring (good for plants) and may be easier to work with (good for your back); and, of course, ongoing watering will be less of an issue than in high summer.

Here are some great resources:

  • Portland Nursery has many guides available for downloading, including a Perennial Bloom Calendar tailored to Portland.
  • Check out the Wild Garden’s list of native perennials, organized by either common name or botanical name.
  • Consider this “six-pack” of perennials as selected by Brian Bauman of Bauman Farms, or Mahar’s other columns, such as one where she picked her favorite perennials for the Pacific Northwest.
  • The book Five-Plant Gardens: 52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden with Just Five Plants may offer good guidance. A review in the Oregonian concluded that it “provides novice gardeners as well as time- and design-challenged gardeners with an excellent road map to perennial gardening . . . plant-by-numbers plans encourages successful gardens, which, in turn, encourages life-long gardeners.” Note that the author’s focus is on long-established cultivars, not the newest trends, as the latter can be higher priced or harder to find.
  • Gardenista picked some tough perennials for urban environments or, equally important, the parking strip (we’re filing away the term ‘hellstrip’ for future use!).


Image: “Helleborus orientalis 20070226-1505-10” by Keith Edkins – Own photo. Botanic Gardens, Cambridge, England. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

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