Perfect Perennial Planting

With this summer’s borders fading away, November is the perfect time to plant herbaceous perennials for a spectacular display in 2022, as Stansted-based gardener and border designer Helen Williams explains.

Spring might feel like the ideal season to plant up your patch, with life visibly returning to the garden after a long winter, but in fact autumn is a far better time to get those precious new plants settled in.

This has been an unusually balmy autumn, even in this naturally mild corner of the UK. But despite chillier air temperatures forecast as we head towards December, the ground will retain a lot of the summer’s heat for several weeks to come. This warm, damp soil is perfect for new plants, especially herbaceous perennials (plants whose top growth dies down annually but whose roots survive). Planted now, they can concentrate on establishing themselves and putting on some root growth, even as their leaves and flowers die back.

This will give them a tremendous head start in spring, allowing them to start growing

vigorously as soon as the day length starts to increase. Planting in spring means plunging your young plants into cold, wet winter soil, meaning new growth is likely to be sluggish. With frosts possible into May, there is even the risk that they m ay be killed off altogether.

A further advantage of autumn planting is that the summer structure of your garden is still visible, which makes is so much easier to identify gaps in the planting, remind yourself which plants have thrived, and which have not, and plan ahead for an even better display next year. This is much harder to do faced with the barren borders of the new year – trust me, you will not remember what was where!

Despite this, most people still buy and plant looking their best, in full growth and often in flower. This is understandable, and I know only too well the temptation of a beautiful plant in lush bloom on a nursery display. Every time I went to Folies this summer I went home with a crateful of delights! This is great fun, but not ideal for the plants, which are likely to be stressed by the effort of trying to establish themelves in dry summer soil while maintaining their top growth and take a long time to settle and thrive. If you plant in summer, and we all do, water regularly until you are sure plants have established.

Herbaceous perennials at this time of year may look a little pathetic, often with a faded blossoms and wilted leaves, but this is their normal mid-autumn appearance. As long as they have a good root system, they will settle quickly into your garden and give you a brilliant display next year. To check the roots, gently tip the plant out of its pot: the roots should fill the pot nicely without being pot-bound. Most nurseries have excellent labels describing the plant, and many, including Folie’s, also include lovely colour images of the flowers, which is a huge help at this time of year.

November is the month to pick up bargain discounted herbaceous perennials. Folies has a wide range available, all at 20% off, including hostas, penstemons, salvias, alstromerias, perennial foxgloves, astrantias and many more, plus a wide range of gifts, clothing, decorations, indoor and outdoor pots, winter bedding, roses, climbers and Christmas trees.

- This is also the ideal time of year to move and divide your existing perennial plants. More on that in our next blog post.

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