While purchased annuals like pansies and marigolds are nice, they require an investment each year. Sure we could plant seeds in early March and water them prior to the transplanting season. But, really, I'd rather get a truckload of wood chip mulch every couple years, pull some weeds in the spring and spend my time on the only annuals that I want- the veggie garden. A well planned perennial garden provides flowers throughout the season and requires very little work or watering.
The easiest varieties are those that have the following characteristics according to http://www.flower-gardening-made-easy.com/easy-care-perennials.html
- Longevity (90 percent alive and thriving five years after planting)
- Resistance to disease and insects, so you don't have spray them
- Don't need to be divided more often than every four or five years
- Tolerance of a wide range of growing conditions
- Cold hardy – no winter protection needed
- Good tolerance of summer heat
- Long blooming period, or foliage that's attractive all season
- Won't take over your garden
- Don't need to be staked.
With our sub-zero Michigan winters, lazy gardeners like me do not want to worry about doing much to dig up or protect any of our perennials. So, plants like gladiolus and namby-pamby varieties of tulips are OUT! They're nice, but ... ya know... weak. No room for that here.
Here's a list of easy perennials, many of which are thriving in our gardens: Daffodills, Tulips, Crocus, Violets, Daylily- like Tiger Lilies, Hosta (favorite deer food, though), Columbine, Iris, Stargazer lily- our wedding flower ♥, Chives, Raspberries, and lots of herbs. We also have Johnny Jump Ups and I love these hardy little guys! I know they aren't technically perennial but they self seed to come up all spring/summer and next year- close enough for me.
But the real fun comes in arranging bulb exchanges with your friends. What better, more sustainable practice could you think of? At our old house, the tulips were packed in these humongous clumps of bulbs that no one had separated in years. I could get twenty bulbs from one cluster of tulips. Frequently, I gave away more than 100 bulbs a year of those stately, gorgeous peach tulips that grew knee high. How about scouting out some of your neighbor's or family members' perennials and offering to exchange something they don't have for something you'd like. Think of it as a heritage. I'm proud to have spread some of my mom's grape hyacinths.
Splitting perennials is easy, but sort of violent. For bulb based plants like tulips, make sure to leave the plant until the foliage is dead. People frequently mow them down as soon as they are done flowering. But this does not allow the plant to propagate. But, really, daylilies and others can just take a good spade to the middle for splitting. Yeah, some of the plant will be damaged, but they bounce right back. I found lots of good advice out there about how to divide perennials for sharing and why you should anyway for the health of the plant.