URBANA – Home gardeners now have a starting point for perennials, thanks to University of Illinois Extension's new "Gardening with Perennials" (http://urbanext.illinois.edu/perennials/) Web site.
"Perennials can be the backbone of a garden," said Greg Stack, UI Extension horticulture educator who helped develop the site. "Once you have the perennials, you can add small shrubs and annuals to complete the garden.
"This site is an excellent starting point for incorporating perennials into your garden."
The Web site has a directory of common perennials to help home gardeners determine what goes best with their particular garden plan.
In addition to having a directory of plant material that outlines some of the characteristics and requirements of basic perennials, the site also has sections that help guide you in the preparation of the garden.
"Often soil preparation is taken too lightly, and perennials that are planted either don't perform as anticipated or have a very short life span," Stack said. "There is even a section for those who may have an established perennial border. This section provides some insight into determining when perennials need to be divided and then gives some hints on how to go about the process."
While perennials may seem like "plant them and forget them" plants or ones that just live almost "forever" without much care, the best perennial borders are those that are cared for regularly and, as a result, will be a long-term asset to the outdoor living space, he added.
And another UI Extension Web site covers the next step – planning the garden.
"Stepping Stones to Perennial Garden Design" (http://web.extension.uiuc.edu/gardendesign/) includes information on site assessment, garden style and display, perennial selection and placement, and bed preparation and maintenance.
"One particularly helpful section of this site focuses on picking a color or colors for the garden," Stack noted.