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Beatrix Potter’s Contemporary American Perennials, Edibles, and Vines
In the first part of this article, we talked about wonderful shrubs that make an excellent staple in a garden that Beatrix Potter might have if she were alive in the US today. In this part of the journey, we’d like to offer some perennial, edible, and vine suggestions that you can plant in your garden for that same magical, earth friendly appeal that Beatrix Potter would have loved so much. Sticking to the same themes of a little wildness with some English flavor, these suggestions will make a fantastic addition to your own magical corner of the world where puddle ducks and jacket-donning rabbits play.
Bursting color and colonizing perennial drifts were abundant between boxwood edges in Beatrix Potter’s own garden and in her many watercolor paintings. Focusing on perennials that spread and fill in the gaps between each other, in pathway stones, and in any other happy place they wish is something you may want to try. Old, established gardens like the ones of Beatrix Potter’s estate had some amount of wildness allowed in them where happy plants moved about as they pleased.
- Dianthus is a classic, and is an absolutely wonderful perennial to have in any garden- but in a garden that resembles the magic of Beatrix Potter dianthus is essential. Perennial dianthus are usually smaller than annual types, growing in tidy mounds with lovely sweetly scented flowers over neatly cut thin foliage that is often blue in hue- sometimes green. Some newer cultivars have a spreading habit that is ideal in an informal rock garden- especially Firewitch. ‘Firewitch’ spreads nicely and looks stunning planted in groups where it can be allowed to fill in and grow in naturalistic drifts in the rockery. In the late spring, bright hot pink flowers bloom in profuse and are classically scented, which is highly attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and hummingbird moths.
- Solomon’s Seal is a native woodland perennial here in the United States, and is a long-lived, naturalizing tough customer that belongs in your shady areas as Beatrix Potter would have put in hers. We carry a beautiful variegated variety that is sure to light up the dark areas of your garden. It gracefully arches in a wonderful architectural shape, where in the spring it dangles lovely little pink bell blooms that bumblebees rely on.
- Phlox in both upright and creeping forms are absolute garden staples, and in an English garden since Victorian times, phlox has been present and much loved. Easy to grow, easy to love, Beatrix Potter loved her phlox too. Emerald Blue Creeping Phlox is an absolute gem. It’s a spreading phlox that loves growing among rock crevices and spilling over ledges. Beautiful light purple/blue blooms cover a dense mat of foliage in the spring. Planted to allow spread into drifts, this phlox is a cottage garden delight with its scent and beauty.
- Perennial geranium is another wonderful selection for the slightly wild and magical garden landscape. Another native of the US, perennial geraniums are perfectly suited to life here. There are many cultivars available, and choosing award winning, tested and proven cultivars of geranium will insure that you have beautiful, easy to care for plants for years to come. That’s why we carry Rozanne - a compact and absolutely stunning perennial geranium that we’re sure Beatrix Potter would add to her partially shaded border. The blooms are almost blue, and are present throughout summer into fall. The foliage is a fantastic lobed shape. Pair with your hostas, ferns, and columbine for a complete, long lasting look that Jeremy Fisher might hang out in.
Vines are not only wonderful problem solvers, they were very much an integral part of the estate at Hill Top (Beatrix Potter’s adult home) and present all throughout her life. You don’t have to have a stone façade to enjoy beautiful vines. Some vines can be trained to grow in the shape of trees. They can be trained to grow on rails, up rock walls, on supports especially installed just for them, over fences, and around tree and shrub trunks.
- Wisteria has gotten a bad rap here in the US as being an obstructive, destructive aggressive plant that in some areas has also become invasive. We carry an American wisteria that’s none of these things. Well-behaved, profuse blooming and long lived- this wisteria is extremely elegant and wonderful. Slower growing than the Asian variety that has become a nuisance, you can shape and train this wisteria without worrying about it taking over and destroying your home. Try using our training tips to create a beautiful wisteria shape in your garden.
- Honeysuckle comes in shrub form, and vine form. We love Major Wheeler , which blooms in scarlet red in the late summer that hummingbirds adore. Allow ‘Major Wheeler’ to grow on a fence for a great screen, through shrub trunks or trees, or over a support along your home. Native to the US, this type of honeysuckle will attract plenty of other wildlife too, along with the hummingbirds that have grown to love and depend on it for food.
An edible element to Beatrix Potter’s garden spurred on her many animal tales, and provided much of her own food at her estate. Much of the herbs grown at her estate and all throughout the gardens of the time were perennials- coming back year after year. These perennial edibles were thought of as luxuries, but Beatrix Potter used them all throughout her own property as more than luxurious additions to the formal boxwood lined gardens of the time. She enjoyed them for the wildlife that was attracted to them, and the hardy beauty and ease that they had.
- Lavender was a favorite of hers, and shows up in some of her watercolor sketch studies. Beautifully scented, Munstead is fantastic and easy to grow perennial lavender that is hardy through most of the US. Plant groups of ‘Munstead’ along walkways and driveways to enjoy its heavy scent. The foliage and blooms are both scented, but the summertime long-lasting spikes of beautiful purple flowers are very heavily scented and the bees absolutely love it.
- Sage is another must have. Fragrant, edible, medicinal, beautiful. Many long-time gardeners particularly love Russian Sage in their perennial borders. It’s a reliable, hardy, tough, neat, and fabulous perennial herb. Beatrix Potter would agree. Purple blooms spike above blue-green foliage in the summer through fall. Drought tolerant and totally easy to grow!
- Rosemary is a perennial herb that is essential in cooking, natural medicine, and was a staple in the English natural garden of Beatrix Potter. Arp is a cultivar bred for better hardiness in the US, so more people can enjoy it around the country. You can grow rosemary like a small shrub, and it takes to shaping and pruning well. Best of all, it’s supremely fragrant. ‘Arp’ will reach heights of 4 feet or so, and is quite happy along a south facing wall, foundation, or as a focal centerpiece or anchor in an herb garden.
- Rhubarb is just as much of an American favorite as it was a favorite of English gardens, and Beatrix Potter. A very long lived, super hardy perennial vegetable, Rhubarb is a spring welcome harvest, cooked into, jams, pies and cakes with great abundance. It’s also ornamental, and plays well in the landscape too. We love Crimson Red for its bright red stalks that keep their color very well when cooked. The leaves are large and shapely and a fun sight in the garden.
- Raspberry shrubs and canes were necessities then for Beatrix Potter, and they belong in every sunny spot in the garden as well. There’s absolutely nothing like fresh ripe berries from your own garden. They are so easy to grow and so hardy- they are a favorite of small gardens and homesteaders alike. We carry 5 of the best cultivars of raspberries available, all proven to have superior disease resistance, large harvests, and the best tasting berries all season long. Try all three types of early (Nova), everbearing (Heritage), and late season (Fall Gold) types.
- Blackberries, like raspberries, are an essential in the edible garden. We carry 4 of the best cultivars available, all chosen for flavor, performance, and hardiness. Fresh homegrown berries were loved for making pies, tarts, and treat of all kinds- and of course were always enjoyed fresh of the vine by Beatrix, and the critters of the garden. You can enjoy them too.
We hope you enjoy creating your garden around the love and care that Beatrix Potter would have used in her gardens. The wonderment and magic that influenced her many art works and literary masterpieces came from her garden. What will your garden and landscape inspire you to do?