The word ‘herbaceous’ means that the plant has non-woody stems that reach their full height and produce flowers within one year. The plant will then die down over the winter and then reappear the following spring ready for a repeat performance. The term perennial essentially means that the plant will live for more than two years. The Herbaceous Border at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is 165m long and backed by one of Britain’s finest beech hedges. The border is a riot of colour designed in a rainbow spectrum ranging from hot reds, oranges and yellows through to cool blues, mauves and whites. Often seen after a rain shower a rainbow signifies new beginnings, hope, the fulfilment of a dream and the promise of prosperity. Here are some of the colourful herbaceous perennials flowering now:
Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’
The aromatic soft grey-blue foliage of catmint, which bears lavender-blue flowers, spikes in summer. A good performing herbaceous perennial that is drought tolerant. It thrives in full sun or partial shade as long as the soil is free draining. We split and divide ours every few years and cut back after flowering to encourage a second flush of flowers ehich keeps the plant in a good compact shape. You can also take soft woodcuttings in early summer.
Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’
A star herbaceous perennial, which flowers from May to August every year. Tolerant of a wide range of soils but prefers to grow in full sun though it will survive in partial shade. The leaves are sage like being in the Lamiaceae family. Bees just love tall spikes of purple arching flowers.
Excellent purple-blue flowering hardy geranium that flowers endlessly through summer from May-September. Perfect for gaps in your borders or as an under planting for roses. It also performs well in a container. Being a hardy Geranium it benefits being cut back and to encourage more flowers later in the season. Happy in a wide range of soils but dislikes waterlogging. Shortlisted for the Chelsea Plant of the Centenary for the decade 1993-2002, and winner of the public vote.
Nepeta sibirica ‘Souvenir d’Andre Chaudron’
Catmint is a compact, suckering perennial boasting loose spikes of lavender blue flowers in whorls. It has a long flowering season across the summer and attractive for pollinators. It thrives in full sun in well-drained soil. Award of Garden Merit by the RHS. Best to deadhead after flowering to encourage repeat flowers. Again looks good under roses and goes well in a cottage style garden.
Geranium clarkei ‘Kashmir Purple’
A rhizomatous herbaceous perennial with large purple flowers. A star in the herbaceous border helping to create a beautiful soft cottage garden style. Cut back hard to encourage more flowers later in the summer. Grows best in well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Dislikes waterlogged conditions. Powdery mildew can be a problem.
Astrantia major ‘Rubra’
A clump forming herbaceous perennial with palmately lobed basal leaves with stems of umbels of tiny flowers surrounded by a rosette of showy bracts. This results in lovely showy maroon flowers that look like pin cushions. Grows in moist humus rich soil in full sun or partial shade. A great rabbit resistant plant as they don’t like to nibble it! All Astrantias can take a little while to establish.
A much loved charming herbaceous plant that many people will be familiar with. Also known as Lady’s Mantle as it forms a mound of velvety leaves. In June it produces frothy bright star shaped lime green flowers. These flowers can last throughout summer – once over it can also be cut back to encourage a new flush of flowers. Looks good in a border or growing through cracked paving. Rain droplets are very attractive on the leaves.
Hemerocallis ‘Golden Chimes’
A semi evergreen herbaceous perennial which grows to about 90cm in height. It has narrow erect foliage with bright cheerful flowers that have a ting?? of red on the reverse which are held on dark stems. These flower on branching stems flowering from June-August. Prefer full sun and grows in most soil types.
Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Inverleith’
This herbaceous perennial is a strong performer for any location or border. Some Persicaria can be weedy and have a bad reputation, but this one is certainly a good family member! It is low maintenance and produces attractive pink-red flowers above a low mound of large mid green leaves. Perfect for the front of a border or an area that needs ground cover.
Stachys macrantha ‘Robusta’
Found in the Lamiaceae family this herbaceous perennial reaches about 40cm in height and makes the perfect plant for the front of a border. It has large bright showy purple flower heads that flower for a long time through the summer months. Happiest in full sun in fertile well-drained soil.
Artemisia ‘Valerie Finnis’
This plant has decorative aromatic foliage and is a semi evergreen herbaceous perennial. In colder regions of the UK, it will lose its leaves completely and here it is best to cut it down to the ground so that lush new growth emerges in spring. Drought tolerant and makes a great plant for a gravel garden or Mediterranean style planting. The attractive foliage can also be dried and used in floral arrangements. It likes light well drained soil and once established will reach about 70cm in height.
Potentilla ‘Yellow Queen’
A versatile clump forming herbaceous perennial that displays dark green bushy foliage. Found in the Rosaceae family it provides bright yellow strawberry like flowers. The flowers will last from June-August. You can deadhead them to prolong flowering. It prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade in places.
Hopefully these herbaceous perennials will brighten your day so try them in your own garden!