In praise of tall perennials

Are tall perennials right for me and my garden? 

Traditionally we think of tall plants as "back of the border plants".  This is true for some tall perennials, flowers at the top of 7 foot stems need to be viewed from a distance to be fully appreciated. 

If you have a small garden the thought of planting something which will grow to 6 feet tall or more, may seem a little counterintuitive. However, if you choose carefully you will find that tall perennials can add Drama, Height and Movement to your garden without dominating the space. Tall plants in small gardens can bring a lot of colour whilst conserving space, many have attractive stems and foliage which can add impact to the border pre-flowering, and on occasion these stems will persist throughout the winter. 

Of course you may be looking for a bold statement plant.  ANGELICA archangelica for example which has wonderful architectural structure and form, towers above other plants within a mixed border.  Just one ANGELICA maybe all you need to create the effect you are looking for. 

Lastly some tall plants are dense enough to create a screen either to act as a division within the garden or maybe to create a greater feeling of  privacy along garden boundaries, throughout the summer months. 


ANGELICA archangelica 



Pitfalls to avoid when picking plants. 

Remember to select plants based on your soil conditions and the aspect of your garden - if the plant you have selected needs a fertile, moisture retentive soil it will struggle to reach its full height if planted in dry or poor soil conditions.  Equally if you plant tall, sun loving perennials in a shady corner they will lean outwards towards the light. 

Tall plants for small spaces  

Choose plants with low basal foliage and tall, airy flowering stems to create a gauzy haze of colour through which other plants can be seen. OR pick well behaved, upright perennials, these can act as key features within the border around which other plants fit.  

Height: 150cm STIPA gigantea, Giant Golden Oat Grass' forms clumps of arching, narrow green foliage, below a fountain of slender stems with oat-like greenish-purple flowers that shimmer in the breeze. Flowering during the summer, the seedheads then fade to old gold before dropping their seeds, but their bearers stay upright long into the winter, looking beautiful when edged in frost. This fine, architectural plant makes quite a statement in the garden. Ideal for introducing sound, movement and textural lightness into any space … Read More 

Height: 120cm CALAMAGROSTIS x actuiflora 'Overdam' Is another easy to grow ornamental grass, with distinct cream margins and fine pale stripes along its leaves this grass has a columnar upright growth habit, its stems are topped off in summer with dramatic feathery plumbs of small smokey purple flowers that fade to buff in the autumn.  Avoid the temptation to cut it back in autumn as it will stay upright into winter and looks beautiful dusted with frost… Read More   

Height: 120cm Commonly known as Argentinian Vervain, VERBENA bonariensis has a columnar habit. This native to South America is a tall perennial with branching stems that bear clusters of tiny violet flowers during summer, bees go mad for this tender perennial, making it a fantastic for wildlife gardens. Gravel borders, drought tolerant borders, wall-side flower beds and borders are all suitable. Full sun and well-drained soils are the desired requirements… Read More 

Height: 120cm OENOTHERA sinuata is one of the tallest OENOTHERA we grow. (Previously classified as GAURA it can now be found under the genus name OENOTHERA) It produces tall upright stems which sway in the breeze. White flowers are produced in profusion all summer... Read More

Height: 150cm Commonly known as Autumn Ox Eye, LEUCANTHEMALLA serotina is a robust perennial with a columnar habit. During late autumn, white daisy-like blooms with yellow centres appear. Oblong to lance-shaped leaves with toothed margins smother the tall upright stems, as late autumn approaches the leaves turn to a beautiful golden yellow. Whereever you plant Leucanthemella its flowers will always turn to face the sun... Read More

Other plants you may like to try: ANISODONTEA 'El Rayo'    ALTHAEA cannabina   THALICTRUM  


Architectural, statement plants.

Some herbaceous perennials have the capacity to deliver the Wow factor to your garden! All of the plants we have selected below have strong architectural qualities - interesting stems, distinctive flower-heads and they are large enough to stand out from the crowd. 

Height: 175cm ANGELICA archangelica is described as a mega herb, but it does not mean it has to be kept solely to a herb garden. It is a biennial, so it will flower and die in its second year. It has wonderful architectural structure and form, making it a great statement plant in the mixed border towering above other plants... Read More

Height: 150cm CRAMBE cordifolia loves a sunny site with a well-drained soil. It is an imposing perennial and requires a large amount of space, it's statuesque flower stems add an architectural element to the garden... Read More

Height : 200cm CYNARA cardunculus is commonly known as the Globe Artichoke, this robust perennial has a vigorous upright habit. The lobed spiny leaves are grey/green in colour. Tall stems hold large globe-like lilac thistle flowers during late summer. It is perfect for adding architectural interest to borders and a great addition to a wildlife garden...Read More

Height: 80cm to 150cm ACTEA bear cream flower spikes with a sweet perfume held on slender stems in autumn. Many customers buy Actea's for the attractive foliage, only to be surprised by the gorgeous flowers that appear later in the season. A wonderful scented addition to any woodland or herbaceous planting scheme. No staking is required. A moisture retentive good soil is beneficial to success with this plant... Read More


ACTAEA simplex 'Pink Spike'



Back of the Border Perennials. 

Some tall perennials are at their best when planted within a mixed border, where their flowers can jostle with the flowers of others to create a wonderful floral tapestry. 

Height: 200cm *EUTROCHIUM maculatum Atropurpureum Group is a very tall back of the border perennial for a sunny position and a good moist soil, where it will make large clumps. Although these are tall flowering perennials they do not require staking. The pink fluffy flower heads are held on dark red/purple stems above bright green leaves... Read More 

*EUTROCHIUM maculatum Atropurpureum Group

Synonym: EUPATORIUM purpureum subsp. maculatum 'Atropurpureum'



Height: 150cm-250cm  RUDBECKIA laciniata 'Herbstsonne' has tall, branching stems which bear large, golden yellow daisy-like flowers each with a distinctive green cone, from late summer into autumn. Large, green, broad, lance-shaped leaves clothe the tall upright stems. Given time 'Herbstsonne' will form good clumps... Read More

 RUDBECKIA laciniata 'Herbstsonne'


Height: 150cm Commonly known as 'Bog Sage', *SALVIA uliginosa produces short spikes of clear blue flowers on branching, mostly naked, stems above slightly leathery, pointed green leaves. Naturally found in South American damp grasslands where it will flower throughout the summer.It is ideal for the back of a moist but sunny border. It looks amazing combined with oranges, burgundies and clear yellows... Read More 

Height: 150cm HELIANTHUS salicifolius is a sunflower like no other, it is often grown just for its unusual foliage but the vivid yellow daisies are a real treat too.   A herbaceous perennial, it develops clumps of very tall elegant stems that are clothed from top to bottom in fresh green narrow thread-like leaves that arch away from the stem and hang creating a fine but transparent silhouette that is very striking.  From late summer into autumn each stem is topped off by a spray of yellow daisy flowers, the petals gently ruffled as they open, each bloom set off by a cinnamon centre... Read More

* Please note - A few of the perennials we have listed won't be available until a little later in the season either because they are slightly tender or because we are waiting for our stock to root down.  



Does March seems like an odd time to start thinking about which tall perennials you would like to plant ?  

Here are some points to ponder as you peruse our list of perennials.

  1. Transport - Let’s start on a purely practical note - if you intend to plant perennials which grow to 6 feet tall within one season, the best time to buy them is before they become too tall to travel home in the car; or be sent via mail order in a box. 
  2. Roots - As with any tall structure good firm foundations are essential! Planting tall perennials now will help them to get their roots well established before they become tall and prone to wind rock, this is especially important if you are planting on an exposed, windy site. 
  3. Water - During a “normal” spring we can rely on there being enough rain to get our newly planted perennials established prior to the onset of summer. Tall perennials tend to require a lot of water in their first year, so as the year progresses and heats up if you are dependent on mains tap water and mindful of your water meter then planting may become less economically viable.