Perennials announce the seasons, provide lots of colour, and attract insects. The range of these products has recently been expanded to include strong attractive varieties that require little maintenance. This makes using perennials in public green spaces an even better idea.
Colourful and economical
A colourful planting appeals to many users of public spaces. It also serves an ecological purpose and improves liveability in towns and cities. Many people still think that perennials are unsuited for use in public spaces. As they see it, the cost of planting and maintaining them is the main problem. And it must be said that perennials need extra maintenance during the first year following planting. However, once the planting has become a solid carpet of groundcover during the second year, this area will require less maintenance than areas covered by grass or shrubs. Actually, this makes areas with perennials even more economical – with the added bonus that the public will appreciate them even more.
Strong elegant varieties
Perennials used in public green spaces need to be strong, to thrive and to remain attractive for a long period of time. These varieties also have to display an ornamental value both before and after flowering. Copious foliage ensures good ground coverage and suppresses weeds. By now, extensive experience with perennials has been acquired and a list of favourites for use in public green spaces has been developed. High on the list are Aster (Aster ageratoides), Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Catnip (Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’), Chinese fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’), Red bistort (Persicaria amplexicaulis) and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’). Although these varieties guarantee success, this doesn’t mean that other perennials can’t be used. It would definitely be worthwhile to test several varieties so that you could add even more favourites to your list.
A long narrow area filled with a single variety can be absolutely beautiful. Good examples of these areas are median strips or the centres of roundabouts. Suitable varieties for these sites would include Catnip (Nepeta racemosa ‘Grog’) or Red bistort (Persicaria amplexicaulis). But a border-like planting using large clusters of various profusely flowering perennials will also be greatly appreciated. To add beauty to a winter landscape, evergreen perennials such as Barren strawberry (Waldsteinia), Foam flower (Tiarella), Elephant-eared saxifrage (Bergenia) and Turkish sage (Phlomis russeliana) can be added. Many varieties – and definitely the ornamental grasses – have an elegant winter silhouette. All the withered plant debris will be mowed and removed in the spring. Soon thereafter, the perennials will emerge to make the planting attractive again. Perennials can also be combined with flowering shrubs to create even greater variation throughout the seasons.
Managers of public green spaces have to be equipped with information if they want to achieve good results. Specialised growers will be pleased to share their experience in this area. With the right collaboration, perennials can quickly make public green spaces more colourful, more varied and less expensive to maintain.