The back of the border

Its important to give plants enough room to grow, but even I have a difficult time following that advice. When given enough room, any plant will be stronger and more resistant to weather, diseases and insects. They will also flower better since they arent competing with their neighbors for food, water and sunlight. Its important to remember what looks like a gap this week may be filled in with side branching in a couple of weeks. One appeal of perennial gardens is their dramatic change from month to month, so it doesnt help to be impatient. Right now in my garden the leaves of the daffodils and tulips are in the way but if I leave them alone they they can make and store food for next years bloom. It helps to plant spring bulbs in between perennials so emerging perennial foliage can hide the fading bulb foliage. In a few weeks the bulb foliage will be gone and the perennials will have the room they need. I plant the largest and tallest plants at the back of my garden. Right now theyre about half way there and Im tempted to tuck in a few more annuals to fill in those gaps, forgetting the plants will fill in on their own. Delphinium, monkshood, phlox, meadow rue and helenium are some of my favorite back-of-the-border plants. Fall asters, boltonia and heliopsis are other good choices. Ornamental grasses are another choice for height and late summer interest. There are many hardy types in the Champlain Valley and may do fine in the higher elevations, too. Feather reed grass (Calamgrostis Karl Foerster) is easy and quick to flower. My favorite group are the switch grasses (Panicum) with intriguing variety names such as Heavy Metal, Prairie Fire and Cloud Nine. Amy Ivy is executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. CCE offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450 and Essex County at 962-4810. More information may be found on-line at ecgardening.cce.cornell.edu or by sending an e-mail to a Master Gardener volunteer at askMG@cornell.edu.

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