How Long Should That Flower Bloom?

Two very brief thunderstorms put down almost no rain last Wednesday evening (just after the first photos for Thursday’s post were taken) but they managed to knock almost all the petals off the peony flowers.

Please don’t get me wrong here–given what thunderstorms are capable of, and the incredible devastation they have inflicted on countless others this season (not to mention death), I know it seems a little petty to be whining that the storms knocked the blooms off my flowers.

I agree–I’m whining because they knocked the blooms off my flowers without providing any beneficial rain in return.  That hardly seems fair somehow.  I’ll take the sour if there’s a bit of sweet to go with it–but there wasn’t any this time.

All of that was a very long-winded introduction to the topic of perennial bloom time.  So many people just seem to ask the question “how long does it bloom?”  Maybe we need to re-frame the question.  Maybe the question should be, “What is this plant’s purpose in my garden?”  Then you–and only you–can decide whether its bloom time is right for you.

Peonies tend to be some of the shorter blooming perennials–and to be robbed of their bloom by a non-rain producing storm makes it even crueller.

Iris, as well–one of the plants I was showing on Thursday–barely seem to get their 15 minutes of fame.  In this week’s heat wave in the East, it’s been more like 15 seconds.  If I hadn’t been there with the camera, I might have missed it entirely.

Why do we tolerate these “shorter” blooming perennials?  There are many reasons, I suppose.  In seasons when their bloom doesn’t correspond to a heat wave, (or freak thunderstorm) the bloom can last longer.  Lots of folks grow peonies for their old-fashioned cottage garden appeal, and their fragrance.  In my case, I inherited them with my house, and the owner passed away last year.  I now preserve them in her memory.  And they are truly glorious when in bloom–however short-or long-lived the bloom might be.

And I’m fortunate, as I showed in the post from Thursday, that as something fades in that very large garden, there are many things coming along to take its place.  There are rose and poppies in full bloom there still, to take the place of the iris and the peonies.  All summer long, echinacea and rudbeckia fill in with color, as do the many hydrangea and two big butterfly bushes.

The garden is a mix of native and non-native plants (and two heirloom pole bean teepees) planted specifically to draw butterflies and pollinators to the yard.  And draw them it does!

You’ll be reading a lot more about this garden over the summer as I talk about its importance in my yard for native habitat and pollinators and as I showcase various plants in it.

But as you choose plants in gardens and think about planning gardens, sometimes a plant’s role isn’t so much “how long does it bloom” but what purpose does it serve in my garden or am I preserving this plant in someone’s memory–or for an ecosystem?

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