In my day, farmers valued workhorses for their strong constitutions, good manners, and steady dependability. As a gardener, I appreciate these same qualities in a handful of sun-loving perennials that earn their keep day in, day out, year after year. These plants contribute to the garden from the time they appear in the spring until the end of the growing season and, in some cases, beyond. Each has been in my garden for five years or longer.
None of my eight workhorses requires frequent division, but all welcome it and will provide plenty of extra plants. With the exception of the grasses, all can be divided when it’s convenient, in either spring or fall. Grasses don’t take kindly to being disturbed in the fall, so divide them only in the spring. Since grasses have deep roots, it’s hard work, so do it sooner rather than later.
Although I improve my clay soil with a yearly mulch of chopped leaves in the spring and add compost to each planting hole, it falls short of the ideal of rich loam. Nonetheless, these plants are robust and happy. They are likely to thrive in most garden soils. Include workhorse plants in your border and you’ll have time to fuss with your more temperamental treasures.