What Is a Perennial Plant?

echinacea - a variety of perennial plant

When you’re new to gardening, commonly used phrases and complicated jargon will boggle the mind. What’s an annual? What does ground-cover mean?

The most commonly asked question we receive from new gardeners is, what’s a perennial plant? If you also ask yourself this question, then we’re here to clear up your confusion.

What does ‘perennial’ mean?

The word ‘perennial’ is a blanket term for flowers that you plant in beds and borders but aren’t bulbs, shrubs, or trees. Perennials can also be evergreen or semi-evergreen plants.

Somewhat separate from perennials is the term herbaceous perennial. This refers to plants that are non-woody and will die back in autumn/winter, reappearing in the spring. A few examples include Geraniums, Sedums and Asters.

Put simply, perennials are plants that are non-woody (eg., rose bushes) that will reappear for many years after planted. Their time span will vary, depending on the plant. If they’re also evergreens, then their foliage will remain throughout the year, but will only blossom in specific seasons.

Perennial plant lupins

Which plants are perennials?

Agapanthus, Delphiniums, Echinacea and Lupins are all great examples of perennial plants. When buying perennials, you will usually buy them one season ahead of time. For example, if you’re buying perennials that will bloom in summer, you should buy them in early-mid spring.

On our website, we offer a broad range of perennial plants, perfect for adding colour to your garden. Here are some quick examples:

Echinacea magnus
Echinacea Magnus
lupin russell mixed
Lupin Russell Mixed
Phlox subulata collection
Phlox subulata Collection

Perennial plants are perfect for both beginners and those looking to create a maintainable garden. Their ability to last several years make them a brilliant addition to your seasonal displays.

shop our perennial plant range

Read more from J Parker’s

what is cross pollination?
how to keep your plants cool during the summer



When to prune acers

The best time to prune acers is when they’re dormant during November and December. But it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your knowledge to ensure you’re ready for when the time comes. The reason we prune acers whilst they are dormant is due to the sap they bleed when pruned which weakens the tree. It is also best to keep the pruning to a minimum as to keep the natural shape of the tree.

Acers are a great addition to any garden, and make an amazing centre piece for any garden. With leaves that turn beautiful shades of red, crimson, orange or yellow in Autumn. As slow growing and compact plants, acers are especially great for smaller gardens.

One thing to be aware of when planting acers is that they grow best in a sheltered position, and need to be protected from wind and frost.

How to prune

In order to keep this natural shape start by removing the badly-placed or crossing shoots to encourage the natural framework of the tree to grow. When reducing the width and height follow the long branches back to the side branch and prune.

Why we prune

Pruning is much more than sawing off branches. Pruning encourages growth, increases flowering and improves overall plant health. Here are a few others reasons to prune your trees:

  • Strengthens tree structure
  • Improves tree health
  • Reduces the risk of dead or weak branches

Important Notes

The key to making sure your acer continues to grow steadily and healthily is to only prune back to a well-placed side branch. Leaving it as a stub will make it susceptible to decay and dieback. Also remember to take out any dead, damaged or diseased wood.

Whether your acer is the main garden event or just a beautiful addition, keeping on top of its maintenance can ensure that it will take centre stage.

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Time-saving Gardening Hacks for National Gardening Week

National Gardening Week is here! This national event, run by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), is to raise awareness of gardening, and to encourage more people to take part in this healthy and productive outdoor activity. We’re celebrating by sharing some of the best kept gardening hacks straight from the mouths of Parker’s team members. Keep reading to discover our top 5 time-saving gardening hacks.

Cut Flower Food Hack

Are your cut flowers in need of some TLC? Instead of buying flower food for your vase displays. Simply make sure to trim the stems every few days to keep the flowers fresh, and add in a teaspoon of sugar into the vase water. The sugar will not only help increase the number and size of open flowers, but it also prolongs the vase life.

Grow your own food with leftovers

Cutting vegetables and planning on throwing the scraps away? Think again! Fresh nutritious produce can be one of the most expensive buys from the supermarket. Luckily there are ways we can reduce this cost whilst experimenting with growing our own food at home. Scraps of potato, garlic bulbs and herbs can be grown in glass jars and water and transform into brand new plants. Great for the environment and your wallet.

Garden Planning Pot Hack

Put your plants in doubled pots, and then bury them at ground level. Whenever you fancy switching up your display, just lift out the top pot and slot in a different one. 

Cooking Water Fertiliser

The next time you boil or steam some vegetables, don’t pour the water down the drain. Once the water has cooled, you can pour the vegetable water in your garden to “fertilize” your plants instead of wasting it. Not only is it cost effective and resourceful, the fertilizer it provides for your plants gives them a more stable and steady growth period. 

Self-watering Plants

Planning on being away from your garden for a while? Fill a water bottle with water, leave the cap off, and quickly turn it upside down and push it a few inches into the soil. The water will slowly seep into the soil and keep it moist. 

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Building a Sensory Garden: Manchester Mind/ J. Parkers

We are happy to announce that J. Parkers have teamed up with the local mental health charity – Manchester Mind, to fund and construct their new sensory garden.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, our customers have shared so many stories about how gardening has benefited their mental health. With mental health close to the heart of our business, we decided to collaborate with a local charity that helps support better mental health. Manchester-based mental health charity Manchester Mind, provide support and training services for those struggling with mental health, including isolation, loneliness and food poverty. After discovering the amazing mental health work MM do, we had to reach out and offer our support.

At their Chorlton-based allotment, Manchester Mind staff and volunteers have been supporting the charity’s emergency food response, which produces meals for families experiencing food poverty in Manchester. At the allotment they are growing and harvesting food, that is then prepared by the catering team and used in the emergency response meals.

One thing sorely missing from the allotment, is a space to relax. After speaking with the Manchester Mind team, they revealed their goal to build a sensory garden. The aim of the garden would be to provide space for volunteers and staff to use for reflection and for one-to-one mental health support sessions. Therefore, to help achieve this goal, J. Parkers are now proudly partnering with Manchester Mind on the funding and construction of their sensory garden.

The Starting Point

A disused area at the back of the allotment will be the setting for the brand-new sensory garden. MM envision a calming space separate from the main plot. For the build, groundwork and planting days have been set out for J. Parker’s staff and Manchester Mind volunteers throughout spring to transform the space.

The Vision

The plan is to transform the desolate, unloved space in their allotment into a beautiful garden thriving with life. A large garden area will host seating areas, a solar fountain and a variety of scented plants. Additionally, a sheltered seating area is to be created as a private space for 1/1 support sessions. The grand opening date for the garden is June 21st 2021, which will celebrate the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Manchester Mind: Sensory Garden Garden (3D design)

One of the core values of Manchester Mind is that everyone deserves to be supported in their mental health needs. This new sensory garden will help provide a safe, relaxing space, all while helping make a difference for those in need mental health support in Manchester.

We will be providing updates on this project every few weeks, so stay tuned!

To get support or find out more information on Manchester Mind, click here to visit their website.

Keep reading:

What is cross-pollination

The question of how to cross pollinate is a common one. But before learning how to, it’s best to learn what it is. Cross-pollination is not only exclusive to bees! It is a process of transferring pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower. Cross-pollination can be used intentionally to create unique varieties of plants and vegetables.

What is cross-pollination

When one plant pollinates another variety, the two plants genetics combine to create a new variety. This new variety shares characteristics from both plants. A popular cross-pollination is for tomatoes, to create new and better varieties. This is intentional cross-pollination but it doesn’t always happen this way. In some instances, external forces play a hand in cross-pollination, like the wind or bees, carry pollen from one variety to another.

Common cross-pollinate misconceptions

Unlike flowers, not all plants can cross-pollinate easily. Cross-pollination within vegetables is less about the pollen, and has more to do with the species. For example, a cucumber could not cross-pollinate with a tomato as they are not the same species. But, it can happen between a broccoli and cauliflower.

Secondly, that the current harvest has been affected. This isn’t possible. Cross-pollination only affects the fruit of any seeds planted from that fruit. If think your harvest looks odd then it might be worth exploring other options such as pests and diseases before jumping to conclusions.

Controlling cross-pollination

Cross-pollination can be controlled, it just requires some extra steps. The easiest method is making sure to only grow one species in the garden as cross-pollination is unlikely to happen. If you want to grow multiple varieties you should determine if the plant you are growing is self pollinated or wind and insect pollinated. You can eliminate the chance of cross-pollination by planting different varieties of the same species at least 3m apart.

Whether is it intentional or not, cross-pollination isn’t always a bad thing. Your plants remain unaffected and you might even create a new variety that grows better and stronger than ever.

Read more gardening information from J Parkers:

How to Keep Your Plants Cool During the Summer

Knowing how to cool plants down in the summer is an essential part of gardening through the season. Although some plants and flowers are drought resistant, many can struggle through particularly warm weather.

If your plants struggle to thrive throughout the summer months, then you’ve come to the right place! Here are some quick and simple ways to keep your plants cool during seasonal heatwaves.

Install Shade Cloth

Shade cloths are great for protecting crops through the season. You can buy these at most outdoor stores or online. Usually, they won’t be as big as the one pictured above.

Shade cloths are perfect for reflecting the heat of the sun away from your more delicate crops, such as peas and lettuce. The use of a shade cloth can help your crops to grow for longer, providing more produce!

The Best Time to Water Your Plants

You may not realise, but there are optimal times for watering your plants in summer. Although you may think they’re being hydrated when you do it midday, this can actually stunt the amount of water the root is getting.

As a rule of thumb, water your plants early in the morning, or in the evening once the sun has gone down. This allows the water to soak into the soil and nourishing the plant before the midday sun can dry it out.

Think About Your Plants Positioning

Potted plants are great for those that need a bit more shade. Pots can be moved anywhere around the garden, allowing you to find the shadiest areas throughout the day as the sun moves. For this reason, it’s best to grow drought-resistant plants in beds and borders, as they can resist a beat of heat.

Utilise Your Mulch

Mulch is a perfect way to cool plants down. Adding a bit of mulch, like leaves and grass cuttings, to the surface of the soil that surrounds the plant can actually cool the plant down.

Mulch also helps to retain moisture in the soil, and prevents weeds from appearing!

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How to Plant Lavender

This guide will not only teach you how to plant Lavender but also where. As an incredibly fragrant flower there are optimal places to allow these flowers to bloom. One of the easier shrubs to grow, Lavender grows best in free-draining soil. It also thrives in full sun and is drought tolerant. Best planted in spring as it will flower in Summer, filling the air with that well-known, aromatic scent.

Step 1: Where to plant

Before you start planting your lavender, it’s vital to choose where. Lavender grows beautifully in containers, but absolutely steals the show when planted in flower borders and herb gardens. It also works well as a boarder or lining a walkway, ensuring the sweet scent can be smelled all over the garden.

Step 2: Prepare your soil

Ensure you’ve removed all weeds from the selected area, and dig over any free-draining soil. If growing in groups, space plants about 90cm apart. If you’re growing a hedge, space plants about 30cm apart.

Step 3: Water

After planting, water regularly during the first season, especially in dry weather. Although lavender is drought tolerant, during the first summer newly planted lavender should be watered regularly.

Step 4: In containers

Containers, about 30-40cm, hold Lavender the best with large draining holes. Make sure the lavender is planted at the same level as its previous pot. At first water well, but then once or twice a week during summer to ensure the soil does not dry out. Containers dry out quicker as the roots have a limited amount soil in which to search for moisture.

Tips:

  • To keep your lavender plant neat and attractive, annually trim the plant in late summer, once the flowering has finished. Remove any spent flower stalks.
  • In winter, cover the lavender with a winter mulch which will protect the lavender from freezing winds and temperature.
  • Lavender is also multifunctional and can be easily repurposed. Lavender oil is perfect for aromatherapy. Or, if dried it makes great tea!

Read more of our gardening tips and planting guides:

How climate change is affecting gardens

For many of us, gardening is much more than a hobby—it is a passion. Did you know on average the UK gardener spend approx. £678 on their garden every year? While gardeners are putting time and money in to their gardens to get them looking their best, there are some effects from climate change making their way into our gardens as the years go on. “Plant health is increasingly under threat. Climate change and human activities have degraded ecosystems, reduced biodiversity and created new niches where pests can thrive,” says United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) expert Marieta Sakalian. Keep reading to discover the repercussions of climate change on our gardens, and how we can reverse them.

The Effects

Over the next few decades, the southern regions of England are expected to become hotter, and dryer overall and experience short episodes of heavy rainfall. The north of England, on the other hand will be milder, with wetter summers and winters. Moreover, trees and plants will probably be exposed to a growing number of pests and diseases. Climate change can affect the population size, survival rate and geographical distribution of pests; and the intensity, development and geographical distribution of diseases.

One of the most visible impacts of climate change, according to the report, will be its affect grass. Currently, warmer springs and autumns combined with regular rain episodes result in an increase in lawn-mowing, which usually does not take place all year round. Should average temperatures rise by 3°C then many grassland areas in south-western England would start to become woodland. In eastern England, households may have to replace lawns with artificial grass.

The Cause

Higher average temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns are causing plants to bloom earlier, creating unpredictable growing seasons. Even warm-weather plants like tomatoes could be harmed by increased temperatures.

Invasive, non-native plants ranges are expanding and making them more apt to take advantage of weakened ecosystems and outcompete native species. Climatic shifts also mean that many native and iconic plants may no longer be able to survive in portions of their historic range. Additionally, some invasive species are even capable of changing soil chemistry, which would be a nightmare for gardeners. 

The Future

Unfortunately, climate change is threatening the gardening experience across the country. Fortunately, there are actions that you can take to be part of the solution—even while gardening.

In a report from the RHS, “urban garden plants and trees help cool the air in our towns and cities, combating dangerous temperatures caused by heat waves”. Allso, breeding pest- and disease-resistant varieties is another environmentally friendly solution, since it reduces the need for pesticides and fungicides.

Additionally, the pandemic has had a surprising and unexpected impact on the environment. The reduction in industrial activity lead to a 17% drop in global carbon dioxide emissions in April, wildflowers flourished on roadsides because verges were cut less frequently, and wildlife reclaimed lost territory.

Since lockdown, there has been a greater emphasis on protecting and enhancing gardens and green spaces. Through sharing information like this, we can help preserve our beautiful gardens for future generations to enjoy.

Do you have any eco-friendly gardening tips? Share in the comments!

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Create the Perfect Patio Garden Display

plants on the patio

Patio displays are the modern gardeners dream! They’re perfect for spaces of any size and design, providing a gorgeous outdoor living space for year-round activity.

Requiring very little maintenance, the patio garden is a perfect place to display your favourite seasonal blooms. If you’re stuck for inspiration, here’s a few tips to get you started!

Plan for Size

the perfect patio garden

Regardless of size, you can create the garden of your dreams. However, its always a good idea to plan your design within reason. If you have a grand design in mind but limited space, maybe try and scale the project back to maximise the effect.

If you’re struggling to get creative with your smaller garden, try starting small. Find furniture that fits the space, or maximise your design with plenty of potted plants scattered around the edges.

Decide on a Focal Point

a garden fire pit

If space permits, creating a focal point can take your patio garden to a whole new level! Whether it be a fire pit or pond, find something that will benefit you and your family as well as your personal taste.

Go Alfresco

patio garden design for small gardens

Unsure of what to include in your patio design? A great option for any patio is a gorgeous outdoor dining table. Pair it with a big parasol for sunnier days, and you’ll be ready to go. Just don’t forget the sun cream!

Keep it Simple

plants in pots on the patio

If you’re still unsure of where to start or what design you prefer then just keep it simple! Pick a few colourful flower pots to scatter around the patio and fill them with all your favourite seasonal flowers and plants.

You could even try your hand at growing your own produce by using grow bags or pots!

Perfect plants for growing in patio pots and containers

Diascia Divara mixed
Livingstone Daisy mixed
Cosmos Apollo Lovesong

Read more from J Parker’s

WIN Tickets to RHS Chelsea: Floristry Contest

Are your flowers worthy of best in show? This April we are giving away 2x tickets to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in September, and to win, all you have to do is share your prize-worthy flower arrangements! Keep reading to see how you can get involved and win an amazing day out to this year’s Chelsea show.

How to enter:

For a chance to win, send us a photo of your beautiful indoor flower arrangement, worthy of winning an RHS award. The competition will only run until the 23rd April 2021, so it’s time to get arranging!

FACEBOOK – Like our Facebook page and share your image to our page with the caption ‘Floristry Contest’.

TWITTER – Follow us at @JParkersBulbs and tag us in your photos with the hashtag #floristrycontest

INSTAGRAM – Follow us at @jparkersbulbs and tag us in your photos with the hashtag #floristrycontest

EMAIL – Email us at competition@jparkers.co.uk (Entries must be under 5mb – please include your name and postcode)

The Prize

The winning entry will be given 2x tickets to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (worth £166 for non members).

This year’s show runs from the 21st-26th of September and the winner will also get the chance to pick a date of their choosing!

Competition closes 23rd April 2021.

Want some tips?

For the best chance of winning this amazing prize, here are some of our top tips for creating the perfect flower displays:

  • Use RHS-winning flowers
  • Cohesive colour schemes
  • Fun & creative arrangements

Good luck!

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