Gardens That Keep on Giving – Peter Perennial Learns a Lesson


There once was a gardener long, long ago…

that was known all the around the kingdom for his perennial flower prowess. This gardener, Perennial Peter as he was fondly known by all, sung the praises of his purist perennial posies of every variety, and would not let a plant of another kind grace his country cottage. No annual, no shrub, no bulb, no tree came past his garden gate. Peter went so far as to disparage all that used anything but perennials, yet people still came from miles around the kingdom to see his beautiful flowers break bloom in early June.

Perennial Peter was an acquired taste, yet his garden shone brightly come June.


As time passed and the flowers grew, Perennial Peter became dismayed with his garden. Plants got unruly and his colorful flowers did not last through summer. He started moving flowers and rearranging them willy-nilly, to no avail. The flowers just lost their magic he thought. He went out and bought new perennials thinking that would make the fascination return. But alas, that was not the answer.


Shrubs are so versatile, serving to border the canvas in which to paint the garden displays. They provide their own color, bloom and texture, but also serve the environment in the fruit and berries they produce. Like trees, they are long-lived and provide a framework in which to build the garden. A garden devoid of shrubs lacks the winter interest a garden may need. Even if they lose their leaves come winter, birds use them for safety in the garden.”

Where people came in early summer, they dwindled by mid summer just as his flowers grew dormant in high heat until next spring. Perennial Peter was not quite the gardener he imagined himself to be.

Spring-BedThe next cottage down the path where Micah Mixedbed lived, had all the people who once visited Perennial Peter’s garden. The town folk kept coming from early spring to late winter. They even visited to see Micah’s winter snowdrops covered in fresh fallen snow, his handmade spruce and holly berry wreath decorating the door to his adorable country cottage.

Bird-HousePerennial Peter had to know why, so he donned a disguise and secretly visited his neighbor Micah. Perennial Peter crept past the rickety fence and through the freshly painted white garden gate.


And lo and behold, Micah had all of Perennial Peter’s favorite perennials, but so much more. He had shrubs and trees and annuals blooming all summer long.


Bulbs, corms, and tubers need little attention once planted if in the correct climate, and provide color through the seasons from the first snowdrops and early crocus to the late-blooming crocus. Groups of bulbs will color the garden and herald the spring long before the summer perennials awake. Summer brings gladioli, lilies, dahlias, canna and tuberous begonia, but some summer bloomers may require lifting in fall.”

Trees give the garden an air of maturity and permanence. Very few plants provide as much personal pleasure on a grand scale, or make such a beneficial contribution to the environment. Trees maintain their beauty throughout the year and structure the garden they shield and protect.”

Micah had bulbs in bloom from early spring to late fall. Perennial Peter was mesmerized by the mixed beds and borders, all at times his perennials were taking a snooze.

The gardens were ablaze in color and so much more. Birds were nesting, bees were pollinating, and butterflies were enjoying the day. While Perennial Peter’s perennials attracted the wildlife, few made their home among his perennials. He quickly realized he had to abandon his rigid ways, and diversity was the key. He knew he was missing something very, very important.


“Fill the gaps or load those containers, annuals provide a longer-lasting display than any perennial or bulb in the garden. Quite a few will self-seed to bring joy year after year. They accent trees and shrubs, brightening even in part-shade areas. Like annuals, tropical plants (like houseplants) will add a texture, fiery color and leaf size not found in most perennials.”


So Perennial Peter went back to his cottage and sat down to plan his well-rounded mixed beds. He got out his quill and parchment and went to work plotting out trees and shrubs for the birds, and season-long annuals for the insects. He moved his perennials once more and was happy with what he saw. In the next number of years, Perennial Peter was a much happier gardener, and again was known by his given name, Peter Perennial. His garden was once again the talk of the kingdom, just like the garden of Micah.

I love perennials and use them copiously in design, but to establish a professionally designed look like all the images in this post, one needs to consider all levels, scale and massing of the garden plants. Make sure to catch yesterday’s post on selecting the Perennial of the Year. They are plants proven to perform well.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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48 Responses to Gardens That Keep on Giving – Peter Perennial Learns a Lesson

  1. David says:

    A clever, entertaining and informative story with some really nice photos. I especially like the birdhouse and fence, the arbor gate after it, and the large tree (bald cypress maybe?) with the white flowering bush in the foreground.

  2. aussiebirder says:

    What a lovely story Donna, and a beautiful garden, I can almost smell the blossoms from the alluring pics!

  3. alesiablogs says:

    Sweet post. The dawn redwood is so beautiful.

  4. Yes, so true. I was glad to find out that Perennial Peter learned his lesson and improved his garden. I can’t imagine a garden without shrubs. trees, annuals and bulbs/tubers.

    • The “whole package” is what is important. Many times gardeners forget about certain plant groups. Even tiny gardens can have plants from each. Just a cute way to get the message across.

  5. Karen says:

    A good lesson for all gardeners, beautiful images.

  6. Incredible views, great story, a beautiful and inspiring post!

  7. Annie says:

    What a super message…. and such an engaging story with lovely illustrations, too.

  8. I always love your photos!

  9. eulalia says:

    Beautiful pictures… I always enjoy your blogs

  10. Is this a true story? How happy he must have been to have a garden the talk of the kingdom!!! 🙂

  11. Donna this is an outstanding piece …I love the story telling you did here. And the pictures of this garden are just amazing…Are these pictures all from the same garden? I am assuming they are and if they are I think it is one of my favorites by far.

  12. lelahb39 says:

    Reblogged this on Intuitive Naturalism and commented:
    Even if you just scroll for visual stimulation of the lush, life bearing gardens! Please enjoy this awesome and inspiring article and let’s consider how lush our gardens and food sources can be!

  13. Kevin says:

    A super fun narrative and super photos. Love that fountain!

  14. What a nice story with such a lot of beautiful attractions (blossoms, beds with perennials, trees) shown on your photographs! I like it that your instructive story is told in a very likeable and entertaining kind of way, Donna.
    Yes, I agree, it’s not necessarily a question of a garden’s size. One can recreate landscape on a rather small piece of ground, too. It doesn’t mean that you have to go without any woody plants, but preferrably you should take the time to choose the right species of tress or shrubs carefully. Besides this, I love to have a variety of plants so that they can complement each other throughout the whole year.
    What would be a garden without birds or insects living in it …? What about pollination and apart from that – it’s a bit lifeless, too quiet, isn’t it?
    I would miss so much!

  15. I love your story and your photos are amazing and so colourful.

  16. Very funny, yes, mixed plantings are the best especially if they include snowdrops!

  17. Perennial Peter was kind of slow on the uptake, but at least he ended up in the right place. Mixed borders are definitely the way to go!

    • Some gardeners really do take a long time to catch on (at least for attracting and keeping wildlife). Garden trends seem to dictate much of the plantings though. Meadow gardens are not going to have shrubs and trees, only along the edges. Prairies you can see the horizon or far off mountains. It really depends on what is the flavor of the year…

  18. catmint says:

    A great story, with a happy ending, and lots to learn and think about. I have learned this hard lesson like Peter. I relied too much on my spring annuals and perennials, and neglected the strong forms of shrubs and trees. Now I’ve planted them, but they’re taking a while to gain the height needed to make a good garden picture. The photos are stunning.

    • Thank you. I know lots of people that had to change the way they gardened once they decided to garden for wildlife. Adding trees and shrubs was foreign to them. Living in a winter locale, trees and shrubs are important for winter appeal, so folks here have more of that than most.

  19. It is all about the editing and combinations isn’t it? Love these photos.

  20. Your photos are so beautiful! And your story so amusing! Thanks for the entertainment today!

  21. A.M.B. says:

    I love this! Poor Perennial Peter, but I’m glad he learned his lesson!

  22. It’s especially important to remember the shrubs. I know I tend to look past them for my own garden.

  23. Aquileana says:

    Truly gorgeous… Happy week ahead dear Donna Aquileana ⭐

  24. Laurin Lindsey says:

    A charming post that would make a wonderful children’s book! Thank you!

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