Perennials for the garden edge are numerous and varied. Perennial species can be found that grow in shade, or in sun. Many perennials suitable for edging are tough and relatively carefree. Some are low growing, slightly sprawling plants that give an informal look to the garden edge, while others hold their various structures upright and tight. These may be sheared or trimmed to provide a very traditional and formal look.
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Perennial cheddar pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) make excellent low-growing edging plants. With green to greyish blue foliage and a brilliant and sometimes fragrant range of spring colour, the many dianthus cultivars are a great choice for a perennial garden edge. Their low-growing habit and tightly massed leaf structure are the perfect perennial complement to a great garden design. Dianthus are tough and can withstand a little abuse --- such as a random foot or paw --- now and then. They need full sun and very well-drained soil to thrive and return year after year. A good cultivar choice, for the southeast U.S. especially, is Bath's Pink.
Seathrifts or sea pinks (Armeria maritima) are spring-blooming perennials whose growth habit form small, semi-spherical mounds of narrow lance-like evergreen foliage. Spring brings the small red and pink globe-shaped flowers as an added bonus to this year-round edging choice. Low growing with minimal cultural needs, perennial armeria can bring a more formal look to the garden edge. These plants need well-drained soil and full sun in most locations. They are less tolerant of accidental foot traffic than the dianthus.
If the perennial edging needs are for summer show, then the hosta offers a fine choice for the garden border. From miniature and small hostas of only 5 to 8 inches tall like Blue Mouse Ears and Limey Lisa, to taller cultivars of 10 to 20 inches like Patriot, there is a hosta to meet all design specifications. Hostas are shade perennials --- though they are quite tolerant of some morning summer sun --- requiring little maintenance or care. There are hostas with stunning leaf colours and even a few that bloom in whites and lavenders. There is even a fragrant double hosta called Aphrodite that creates a remarkably showy perennial edge.
Known variously as lavender cotton, holy herb or ground cypress (Santolina chamaecyparissus), this perennial is a great edging plant for edging situations that require a formal look to the garden border. Requiring full sun and well-drained soil, once santolinas are established they are carefree. With practice and care santolinas may be trimmed to give an even more formal appearance to the garden edge. Santolinas have small insignificant yellow flowers, and are grown primarily for their silvery grey foliage.
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