Tried and true perennials

Julie Brocklehurst-Woods/Special to The Livingston County NewsThis Cranesbill (perennial geranium) Roxanne blooms from June until frost in part shade. It is easy to grow, and problem-free.

The last days before the snow flies are perfect for writing down ideas for next year. Take some photos while you can still see where your plants are located. Photos taken now from inside your home as well as outside will give you inspiration in the winter.

If you have plants that aren’t making you happy, now can be a good time to remove them. Usually the ground doesn’t freeze until about Dec. 1. Tough plants such as iris and daylilies will probably survive the winter in a temporary location if their roots are covered with chopped leaves. It’s much easier to find new homes for plants in the spring.

I received an email this week from a reader seeking information about perennials that bloom for a long time. Some spectacular perennials may only bloom for a couple of weeks. Gardeners may want to consider plants that also have interesting and/or colorful foliage, bark and stems which are attractive during more than bloom time. Missouri Botanical Garden has identified quite a few Plants of Merit with multi-season interest. Full descriptions of these plants are available on its website,

Two of my personal long-blooming favorites are Nepeta Walker’s Low for sun, and Cranesbill Roxanne for part-shade. Both of these plants begin blooming in June, continuing until the fall frost. Roxanne likes to sprawl on a vine, which is easily relocated. This Nepeta grows like a small shrub about a foot tall. I shear it back when it topples a bit in July, which enables it to fill in more densely and continue blooming through the remainder of the season.

A landscaper I recently heard speak on Zoom, Megan McKenzie from Clover Lawn and Landscape in Rochester, shared her list of “Tried and True” perennial plants, which she uses over and over again. In sunny areas these include Threadleaf Coreopsis Moonbeam and Zagreb. There are pink and red coreopsis plants available, but they aren’t as hardy. Her favorite coneflowers include the Pow Wow series (Berry and White), Cheyenne Spirit Mix, and Julia Butterfly. Many colors of coneflower tend to revert to purple, but not these varieties.

Daylily favorites include Stella D’Oro, Pardon Me, Catherine Woodberry, Joan Senior, and Mary Todd. “Must Have” Rudebeckias are Goldstrum, Denver Daisy and Campfire. Rudebeckia plants will tolerate more shade than others in this group. Megan also uses Salvia May Night and Snow Hill regularly in full sun.

Cranesbill Roxanne and Biokovo (with colorful fall foliage) are her favored groundcovers for part shade. Tiarellas Zebra, Ruby Spice and Cutting Edge work also well for her in shade. Her favorite hosta is Sum and Substance, with glowing chartreuse leaves. Ladies Mantle is a great edging plant in more shaded areas.

Spring issues of magazines will be filled with news of new plants for the arriving season, but I prefer to rely on plants that have been around for a few years, and have passed the test of time.

Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County since 2002. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks. She will answer gardening questions by email:

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