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Report From PIA – May 17

As I watered pots of perennials at the garden center today, I noticed a woman who was loading her cart with pots of blooming plants. “What does well in shade and has pink flowers?” she called to me. “Astilbes,” I answered. “Don’t tell me names,” she replied, “they mean nothing to me. Show me what it looks like.”

So I led this customer to the perennial shade frame and began showing her different plants. At one point she picked up a Pulmonaria that was in bloom and said, “This blooms all summer, right?”

“No,” I answered, “It’s a spring bloomer,” and I watched her drop the pot so quickly that I thought it must have been burning her fingers.

The fact is, none of the plants that she’d loaded on her cart would bloom all summer. They’re called “spring bloomers” for a reason. And to my mind, one of the reasons to choose perennials is that you can have different flowers in the garden each month.

If you want plants that will be in bloom from mid-May through the fall, plant annuals. That’s what they are good at. But one of the reasons to have a varied selection of perennials is that your garden will change from month ot month. Perennials provide a kaleidoscope of foliage and flower color, so that the garden is always changing.

How often in our lives do we gravitate toward the sure thing, when transition and change is truly much more interesting?

The bright yellow flowers of Aurinia saxatilis are beautiful, but I think that I appreciate them more because they are only in my garden in the spring.

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