\r\n\r\n\r\nBy Ray Greenstreet\r\nALEXANDRIA, VA - June \u2013 and with it, summer - has arrived. In an annual rite marking this seasonal passage, the Perennial Plant Association named June \u201cPerennial Gardening Month\u201d and in doing so, urges gardeners to celebrate the summer garden by planting perennials. Moreover, perennial gardening is something to celebrate.\r\nA perennial (from Latin per, meaning "through", and annus, meaning "year") is a plant that lives for more than two years. Herbaceous perennials grow and bloom in the spring and summer, die back every autumn and winter, and then return in the spring from their root-stock. There is also a class of evergreen perennials which keep their leaves throughout the year.\r\nBecause most perennials have a defined bloom time that usually lasts for 3-5 weeks, the key to a successful perennial garden is to choose plants that bloom at different times throughout the growing season. Perennials come in every form, size, texture, and flower color. Combine plants with different characteristics, and don\u2019t overlook the value of contrasting colors \u2013 purple and red or orange may sound crazy but it is an excellent color combination in a summer garden. When designed for continuous bloom, the garden will be ever-changing and lovely, May through November.\r\n\r\nReady to dig into perennial gardening? Let\u2019s have some fun, as even the names of these plants are something to smile about.\r\nStart at the ground level with dependable growers that just about any color thumb can successfully grow. If you only plant these plants, you\u2019ll have a season of perennial blooms: Shasta Daisy; Coreopsis; Sedum \u2018Autumn Joy\u2019; Nepata; Dianthus (\u2018Fire Witch\u2019 is a staple); Salvia (especially \u2018Caradonna\u2019 and \u2018May Night\u2019); and daylilies \u2018Stella d\u2019 Oro\u2019 and \u2018Happy Returns.\u2019\r\nReady to take it to the next level? Dig deeper and experiment with bold foliage and flower colors. Crocosmia \u2018Lucifer\u2019 makes a statement with its carmine red flowers and spiky foliage. Soften the garden with gray foliage and blue flowers of Russian Sage. Journey into the land of Echinacea, from rose pink \u2018Magnus\u2019 to \u2018Sombrero Salsa Red\u2019 to orange \u2018Big Kahuna\u2019 to the limelight of \u2018Green Jewel. Grow your daylily collection with the ruffled Siloam \u2018Double Classic.\u2019 And don\u2019t forget Geum, especially the giant \u2018Totally Tangerine\u2019 and the aptly named \u2018Double Bloody Mary.\u2019\r\n\r\nAre you hooked? Now you\u2019ll be hard-pressed to pass up a perennial you\u2019ve never seen before, a new variety that is as much fun to pronounce as it is to grow. Like Echibeckia, a cross between Rubeckia and Echinacea. Got to have it just to say it. Or Verbena bonariensis. Good luck pronouncing it, but it is one cool plant. And Euphorbia. \u2018Tiny Tim\u2019 and \u2018Ascot Rainbow\u2019 look almost prehistoric. Then there\u2019s Echinops. Say that fast after a glass or two of wine.\r\nAll of the afore-mentioned plants are sun lovers. If you garden in the shade, don\u2019t despair. You can easily garden with perennials that grow where the sun doesn\u2019t shine.\r\n\r\nStart with Astillbe, Ferns, Foxglove, and Bleeding Heart. Thalictrum \u2018Black Stockings\u2019 is a tall drink of water at five feet. Or Ligularia desdomona. Epimedium \u2018Orange Queen\u2019. These names just roll off the tongue.\r\nAnd then there are the three \u201cH\u2019s\u201d of shade gardening - Hellebore, Heuchera, and Hostas. \u2018Holy Guacamole!\u2019 - don\u2019t get perennial plant geeks going on hostas. From tiny \u2018Blue Mouse Ears,\u2019 \u2018Slim and Trim,\u2019 and \u2018Cookie Crumb\u2019 to the bigger bolder \u2018Striptease,\u2019 \u2018Albiqua\u2019s Drinking Gourd\u2019 and \u2018Big Daddy.\u2019 You can grow a hosta garden and never run out of new hostas to include. Did I mention \u2018Maui Buttercup\u2019 or \u2018Thunderbolt\u2019 or \u2018Rainbow\u2019s End\u2019? The list is endless.\r\nSo join me in celebrating Perennial Gardening Month and discover the joy of perennials. These hardy plants are the garden\u2019s backbone, flourishing throughout the growing season until freezing temperatures force them into hibernation until spring. And then they grow up and do it all again, bigger and better. What\u2019s not to love?