5 answers

Flowering Shrubs or Perennials?

I have a sunny spot next to my deck, right outside my kitchen window. I'd like to plant either flowering shrubs or a perennial garden, but I am not an experienced gardener and don't want to hire a landscaper. I live in Zone 5A (suburbs of Chicago). Any suggestions for easy-to-care for plants (I'm not much for weeding, etc...) that will stay in bloom from spring through summer? I'd like to brighten my view!

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Hi E.,
I'm down state from you (near Springfield) but I'm sure this options would work for you:
"Crimson Pgmy" Barberry (bush for year-round color)
"Little Henry" sweetspire (bush)
Siberian Iris: purple flowers, grassy leaves
"May Knight" salvia purple floers
Bearded iris (loads of options when it comes to colors)
Sedum (again several color choices, fall flowers that butterflies go crazy for)
Garden Phlox (lots of color options)
"Johnson Blue" geranium (flowers throughout)
Coral Bells (several colors for leaf color then fall flowers)
"Moonbeam" coreopsis (yellow flowers)
Homerun (red) & Knockout (yellow) Roses
Liriope (small grass like with fall color)
Siberian Squill (bulb for spring color)
"Karl Forrester" featherred grass
Daylilly (loads of choices)

These are all the different things I have in my yard that are low maintance. Basically in the spring I pull off the dead flower stems, cut down the grasses, and spread out my preen then call it finished. We have hummingbids and butterflies that are always around so it is fun to watch and all the colors are changing throughout the year!
Good Luck!

Depending on how much space you have, it can be good to build a foundation of evergreen or flowering shrubs. That will highlight your flowering plants and can give you some early spring color.

Plant your perennials in odd numbered groupings (3-5 plants). Bed preparation is key! Buy a good quality landscape mix or rose soil to amend the existing. If you can, block it in with timbers or stone so that you can elevate for drainage.

There are some great plants that are all about foliage color too...I've included some of those in my list.

Some of my favorite perennials for your area:

Astilbe...you MAY have too much sun for this

Bee Balm (Monarda)

Goldstrum Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)

Liatris or Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

Coneflowers (Echinacea)

Coral Bells (Heuchera)

Foxglove (Digitalis)

Dwarf Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)

Hosta

I'm not an experienced gardener either, but a do have 3 perenial flower gardens (2 sun/1 shade). All of the flowering shrubs that I'm familiar with only bloom for about a month.

All of my perenials are very easy to care for, however the original planting can take some time and hard work.

In my front garden, which is a raised garden, has some bulbs (tulips, daffodils, hyacynths) that bloom early spring, right now everything is just green, but in another 2 weeks I'll have flowers that will last thru the fall. When I created the garden, I went to a garden center, walked around and found several plants that I liked. Then I had a salesperson help me choose a few that would work well together. Keep in mind that they will spread a little bit each year. The work actually comes in the fall when I need to go out and cut down all the dead or dying plants. Then again in the spring raking out all the stuff left over from the fall. It's also recommended you put down some manure each year. Also depending on the season, I usually have to water twice a week.

For my back garden, the plants are spaced apart. So each spring, I lay down some newspaper and cover with mulch. No weeding necessary.

Enjoy your garden!

I am surprised that no one mentioned a butterfly bush! they come in an assortment of colors. they need to be cut back to 6 - 12 inches tall in the spring but the pay off is a beautiful bush 4-6 feet tall and wide with 6-8 inch long flower bundles that attract butterflies, honey bees, hummingbird moths, and hummingbirds. we have 4 in our yard at different areas and each seems to attract its own type of butterfly. we have a pink one, a black knight (dark purple), white and then a few that popped up last sesaon in the fall that are magenta and i never bought it. i think the bushes have been getting freaky together;) Good luck, there is plenty to choose from, and watch out, gardening can get addictive!

Check into Knockout roses. They are very disease resistant and flower for a long time. Another favorite of mine is the Cranesbill type of geranium. They are a perennial and bloom most if not all of the summer. (I'd stay away from the bee balm, it only blooms a few weeks and can get invasive.) One that doesn't necessarily bloom but has great colors is Heuchera or Coral Bells.

Search the plant names you get and you should find their bloom times and such. When you look for plants, pick the ones that give bloom time over 2 months because something that is Apr-May usually means maybe a week in April and maybe a week in May to the plant companies. :]

Also, you may want to get help someone at a local nursery. There are people that can advise you on site all the way to someone who will work up a garden plan for you to have. I've also noticed in this economy, they are more willing to work with someone on a tight budget and in a variety of ways - including free.

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