Since it's still all strawberries and lettuce in the vegetable garden, I thought I'd talk about perennials for a change. I have quite a few, though they are not exotic. I prefer those I think of as "American Cottage" -- black-eyed susans, daylilies, salvia, purple coneflowers, coreopsis, Russian sage, Autumn Joy sedum, butterfly bushes and monarda. Kind of a semi-wild tangle of plants that are not fussy and in general create many volunteers to share and colonize new area. This garden came furnished with the monarda, daylilies, a huge white butterfly bush, a clump of black-eyed susan, lirope, irises and many hostas tucked into the edges of the wooded area. Since many of those were already favorites from past gardening attempts (and I didn't have to buy them) I worked with what I had.
I added purple coneflowers, tall lilies, a clump of zebra grass and my favorite russian sage the first year and in the second was able to divide the lirope around the rest of the front walk, cover a small but steep slope with orange daylilies, spread the black-eyed susan to the other side of the front garden and bring some to the back. I also consolidated all the hostas to the shady side garden to make something nice to look at out the dining room's bay window -- the view before was the 8' by 15' cement slab top of an old cistern and dead grass under the big maples. I covered the slab with mulch, and added a circle of pebbles in the center topped by a big, footed urn that looks like stone but is lightweight foam stuff planted with begonias and fuschia. Then underplanted around the tree with the hostas brought in from around the yard and added some large stones from the creek as a focal point/path. This year I added a bunch more hostas as my neighbors on both sides wanted to get rid of theirs - can you imagine! I also added some big potted ferns - only $8 each at Lowes - and painted the shed. It is now so lush and green - just about my favorite spot.
Near there, in the front garden, I added a little rock garden filled with different types of low-growing sedum and some diantus -- dianthus is also a great plant for thrifty gardeners, since many of the big-box retailers sell it cheap as an early annual in the spring, but it is really perennial - mine is on year 3. This year I moved the Oakleaf hydrangeas right behind the rock garden from their shady home next to the shed and they are blooming for the first time. Two of the sedums were donations from my brother-in-law as were three cardinal flowers that are growing really well in the back. All the plants from my brother-in-law were brought back from Michigan, packed in a cardboard box.
There is a 14-foot long planter box by the driveway that was filled with irises. I pulled those out late last summer and distributed them around the yard (and the neighbors' yards - there were more than 100) and replanted with coreopsis, blue salvia, some chrysanthemum (from fall pots the previous year) Autumn Joy sedum (from my neighbor) and low-growing mat-forming phlox (from the same neighbor) and another sedum found for $1 each at a yard sale. The salvia and coreopsis have started blooming nicely. There are also 2 mature clematis vines on the light post at the end of the planter.
I also have some Shasta daisies - another favorite - that I started from seed 2 years ago. I was able to divide those this year. Last spring I took a volunteer shoot from the butterfly bush and established a nice one on the other side of the garden - it grew to 5 feet in its first year. Last year I also bought some heucherella - foam flower, I think - to plant behind the hostas in the shade garden one died and the other 2 did not bloom I moved them out back where they get more sun and they seem to be doing a bit better.