Here are five perennials that Karen Strohbeen, host of the "The Perennial Gardener" (www.pbs.org/perennialgardner), recommends for beginners as well as groomed green thumbers.
The following begin blooming in spring and continue flowering variably throughout the season. None is unduly demanding and all can be grown in most North American regions.
Clematis durandi: "Their indigo-blue blooms provide a marvelous contrast to white and yellow flowers," Mrs. Strohbeen says. "And the best part is, that their beauty lasts for a very long time."
Geranium: "Anyone can have success with [perennial] geraniums," Strohbeen says. They come in various sizes and are a useful groundcover. They produce saucer-to-star-shaped white, red, pink, purple or blue flowers in early summer that last until late fall. Cut back after flowering to promote fresh foliage and flowers, she advises.
Glaucium: They are commonly known as "yellow-horned poppy" and have gray-green leaves, yellow or red poppy-like flowers. Glaucium is fairly drought tolerant and combines well with succulents. It is also grown as an annual.
Miscanthus: This tall, elegant grass is invaluable in mixed plantings, says Strohbeen. Some have striped leaves that look striking against a dark background, like a home or fence. Silky, late-summer flowerheads can be left to decorate the winter garden.
Roses: "Roses have grown out of favor with many gardeners in recent years," she says. "I think that's a shame. They are so beautiful and elegant."
Strohbeen is especially partial to shrub roses, which are somewhat harder to care for than the other plants mentioned. Shrub roses come in many different colors - red, white, yellow, cream, and deep burgundy.