Spring has sprung, and the itch to get out and plant is nearly overwhelming. Alas, we’ve been having unseasonably cool weather here in the Carolinas of late (we had FROST last week!), so I’ve had to curb the urge.

Below are my top ten favorite perennials. For you non-gardeners out there, annuals have to be replanted every year; perennials come back year after year, so even though they cost more up front, they’re well worth it. The pictures and descriptions came from Spring Hill Nursery and/or Wikipedia, with my own comments thrown in hither and yon.

gerbera.jpg 10. Gerbera Daisies – Also known as South African Daisies. Large and velvety, gerbera’s blooms come in a rainbow of vivid colors with lush foliage on thick, sturdy stems. Often the flower form is so perfect and uniform that they may be mistaken for artificial flowers. They’re great for borders, in containers, and for cutting and bringing indoors in arrangements.

bleeding-heart.jpg9. Bleeding Heart – Arching sprays drip with dozens of heart-shaped flowers with dainty white tears. Flowers may be red, pink, white or yellow, and add a distinctive touch to shady areas during mid to late spring. One of only a very few blooming plants that thrive in the shade. Too much sun will burn this plant, but it’s perfect under trees.

hollyhock.jpg8. Hollyhocks – Hollyhocks are very drought resistant, and do well in full sun locations that might be too hot or dry for other plants. They produce large, flat coin-shaped seeds (1/2″ diameter) that seem to grow easily wherever they drop. While an individual plant might only live a handful of years, by that time chances are good it will leave plenty of descendants. These plants grow 5′ to 7′ tall, so staking is required and planting at the back of the bed, against a house, wall or fence is recommended.

susans.jpg7. Black-eyed Susans – As much as it resembles a daisy, the black-eyed Susan is actually a member of the sunflower family. Golden, daisy like flowers with black centers start blooming in midsummer and remain in bloom until frost. These will tolerate full sun, scorching heat, drought, and keep on blooming. Great around mailboxes and trees.
roses.jpg6. Climbing Roses – Climbing roses bloom in abundance from mid-spring to late fall in my part of the country. Those of you in northern climates may notice a shorter blooming season. They’re wonderful on trellises, fences, or walls. These roses have short stems, and are generally not good for cut flowers. They’re a wonderful way to screen out an unsightly view.

glads.jpg5. Gladiolus – Glads grow to about 3 feet tall, and all the flowers bloom on one stem. They’re often the first flower of summer. They come in dozens of colors and hybrids, and require little in the way of maintenance. Because the flower stems are so heavy, it’s recommended that you stake these plants to keep them from falling over in the wind. These are beautiful as cut flowers in arrangements or just by themselves.

petunia.jpg4. Cascading Petunias – Petunias are easy to grow, bloom all season long, thrive in just about any type soil, and will come back every year. I just doesn’t get any better than that! Botanically, they are related to the tobacco plant. To increase blooms, pick off the dead flowers about once a week. Great for growing in containers on patios and decks.
hydrangea.jpg3. Hydrangeas – My grandmother grew these, and I think of her whenever I see them. They bloom from late spring until early fall, and the flowers can be cut, brought in and dried and still retain their color. In most species the flowers are white, but in some species they can be blue, red, pink, or purple. The exact colour depends on the pH of the soil; acidic soils produce blue flowers, neutral soils produce very pale cream petals, and alkaline soils results in pink or purple.

dahlia.jpg2. Dahlias – Prized for their bushy growth habit and beautiful multi-colored blooms all summer long! Suitable for the front of the border, in containers or as an edging along pathways. Just pluck the spent flower heads, and new blooms will appear as if by magic. In northern areas, the tubers need to be lifted in the fall and replanted in the spring. Here in the south, these will winter over and come back year after year.

peony.jpg1. Peonies – If these flowers have a fault it’s that they only bloom for about two weeks per year. Often called the ‘Queen of Flowers’, they have a very soft and fluffy appearance. Generally heavy bloomers with foliage that remains attractive throughout the growing season. Ideal for a border or hedging. Extremely hardy and care-free (they thrive on neglect). The flowers are wonderful for cutting, and extremely fragant. If you bring them into the house, be sure to watch out for ants, who love the nectar produced by the flowers.