Most of us remember the simple joys of summer as a child- Getting out of school, catching fireflies, shooting off fireworks and making a wish as you gently blow the fluffy, white seeds of a dandelion to the breeze. I barely remember picking dandelions, but I do remember the certain hope of making that wish, and I was able to relive that magic at the start of this summer while watching my son pick his first dandelion and scatter the seeds to the wind.
As an adult, summer has much more subtle indicators like going on Memorial Day picnics, turning on the air conditioner for the first time, watching gas prices rise and worrying that dandelion seeds will take hold in your yard.
In the life of a gardener and professional grower, June is Perennial Gardening month and kicks off the summer by celebrating not only the Perennial Plant of the Year, but all perennial plants and their beauty in the garden.
For everyone who gets a little fuzzy on which plants are annuals and which are perennials, the latter is a plant that lives at least two years and usually year after year, if you are treating it right. Annuals often steal the show with their showy blooms and stunning color, but perennials really earn their place in the landscape.
1) The Come Back Kids- Some perennials, like peonies, live for decades, and for anyone who doesn't like digging holes, these resilient flowers are a must-have in the landscape.
2) The Gift that Keeps on Giving- Perennial flowers are tough and can be divided as they mature. Certain types like hosta, daylily, Shasta daisy, bleeding hearts and others actually need to be divided to maintain vigor. You can divide and expand your own garden or become that neighbor that always has plants to share.
3) A Plant for Every Place- All landscapes have challenges, and perennial plants nearly always provide a solution. From hostas and ferns for dense shade, to Lobelia and Hibiscus for wet areas, to native coneflower and black-eyed susan for hot, dry areas, perennials are problem solvers.
4) Power of Attraction- Pollinators, like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, add enchantment and life to any garden as well as being necessary for biological processes. Plants, like milkweed, bee balm, yarrow, salvia and cardinal flower, will easily lure more fluttering friends to your garden.
As we begin a summer of green lawns, ice cream, River Bandits and RAGBRAI, take time to appreciate your flowers; pick a few of those white fluff balls and make a wish because dandelions are perennials too.